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Extracts from an essay on 'Change'

16 September 2015

John Armstrong

Extracts from an essay on Change, by John Armstrong, part of our partnership with The School of Life.

We live in a culture that is always encouraging us to change. The fashion industry, for instance, thrives on rapid shifts of preferences. It has to persuade us that what was great last year isn't much good this year. A car manufacturer wants to get us to change to their latest model. A new restaurant hopes to get us to alter our dining habits. There are many forces at play, encouraging us to feel that change is good and exciting.

But our relationship to change can be better or worse. We can use change well or we can be baffled and distressed by change. We can grow or diminish.

We tend, for instance, to be adept at recognising and responding to small, short-term changes. It's not surprising. That's what comes naturally. We have evolved to be good at it. Yet, in order to deal well with the big challenges of life we need to be able to grasp and deal with long-term changes. And the tricky thing is that often the pattern is far from obvious close up.

Despite the prestige of change, in reality we are often deeply disturbed by change. It's not surprising. We learn how to cope - and thrive - in a given order of things. You know how the system works; you feel you have come to understand what works and what doesn't. Then a big change comes along and your hard-won knowledge no longer seems to work. The rules have changed. You built up good relationships with people, but they no longer run the show. Strategies that proved themselves over many years no longer bring the results you want. There's a new vocabulary, new buzzwords, new expectations.

To deal well with change we have to do an unexpected thing: we have to get to grips with our own values.

To read the essay in full, please click here.