Negotiating Change with Ourselves
Change is a concept holding true for both cavemen and their 21st-century counterparts. Every generation is familiar with it; attempted to study it, understand it, cope with it, with never truly reaching a resolve.
Some would argue that, with the advent of technology, our generation would be different, that we can come to accept change more gracefully.
Yes, evidently so, technology has accelerated the world at an exponential rate, but have we kept up the same pace?
Have we changed, as well, or are we still the same caveman, just swapping older concerns for newer ones?
Like many things in life, the answer isn't always clear cut, and calls for a more nuanced approach. While there is no denying, that technology and the modern world has, since, changed drastically; the human experience remains, relatively, the same.
We are, for the most part, governed by our emotional and biological instincts. Our minds are designed to conserve energy, wired with the biological imperative to survive, and resist change-- even when the change can lead to good.
For instance, take last month, when I was visiting a friend outside the country, and being the foodie that I am, I was very excited to try out new flavors in the new city.
It was a month-long trip jam packed with activities, but after a particularly tiring day, all of us wanted to eat some Mangalorean food at our rented apartment. However, the trouble was that the restaurant we chose did not deliver food to our location, and none of us wanted to travel to eat.
Fortunately, I had a relatively lighter day, so I volunteered to pick up the food and bring it back. This suggestion was an instant hit and we started planning. The restaurant was about 30 minutes from our apartment, and it was in a busy locality, so finding a cab would be difficult. Put together with the help of our local friend, our plan was ready to go.
All the steps in the plan were reasonable, but my own hesitations, not so much.
It was at this moment, my semi-introverted self-came up with its own set of challenges, at every step of the way, since it involved me doing something unconventional to what I was used to.
In the end, our plan (and my doubts) looked something like this:
- STEP 1 - Call the restaurant and talk to them in "Tulu", common tongue in Mangalore, the connection might help. (But should I really speak in my mother tongue? Would he not look through my efforts in garnering some favor?)
- STEP 2 - Ask the restaurant to pack the food in takeaway containers which we would pick up. (But would they trust someone on the phone and keep the takeaway ready? what if they don't do takeaways like that?)
- STEP 3 - Book the cab after placing the order and ask the driver to wait while I fetch the takeaway, in less than 2 minutes, and ride back in the same cab. (But would the cab driver wait for me? wouldn't it be just easier to avoid talking to him and book another cab, after I’ve picked up the takeaway, instead?)
For a split second, in my mind, I thought of ignoring our plan.
I thought I'd go to the restaurant, order when I reach, wait for the food to be ready and book another cab back. After all, the end result is going to be the same, the only difference would be the time I’d have to wait (and I can wait.)
Almost as soon as my mind entertained that last thought, many others rushed in:
- Why was I so uncomfortable talking in Tulu?
- What's wrong in asking the restaurant if they'd take my order?
- Am I trying to avoid doing this because I’m afraid of being judged by a stranger?
- And why can't I talk to the cab driver about the pickup? Afterall the service is here to help.
Suddenly, I’m asking myself “Am I simply finding excuses? Am I negotiating with myself as to why the plan would not work, even before I have given it a legitimate chance?”
The answers, of course, were not very pleasant for me to accept them. I was afraid that I would come across unnecessarily demanding, but I never realized that this fear has always kept me away from the most reasonable choices at the cost of my own suffering. It required a conscious effort, on my part, to notice these patterns and to deliberately attempt to change them for the better.
But I was, still, afraid this change would result in me being judged. A bitter moment of contemplation later, I decided to give our original plan a try.
- STEP 1 - The moment I got on the call, I asked the speaker if he spoke Tulu? To which, the speaker very enthusiastically said yes; after all, there aren't many who speak it outside Mangalore. And he told me that he was glad that we found them.
- STEP 2 - When I told the speaker about what we were planning to do, he was very happy to take our order and said that he would keep it ready within 30 mins.
- STEP 3 - I booked the cab and explained my situation. The driver was happy to help and said that he would wait by the curb while I pick up the takeaway.
To my surprise and relief, everything went according to plan. The pickup and drive were just on time, and I avoided the unnecessary wait and the struggles to book a cab from a busy location.
Looking back at this story, it may appear trivial and even silly, yet the truth remains: nearly all of us are guilty of negotiating with ourselves. We engage in this internal battle, create excuses, and succumb to the fear of judgement, impeding us from embracing change for the better.
We all know that change is the only constant in this world, it's a powerful and inevitable force, yet it is in our very nature to resist it, even when it's for our own good.
If we acknowledge change to be the natural state of existence, then we must also accept that choosing not to change is unnatural. Change isn't merely a part of life; it is life itself.
Resisting change is, ultimately, an exhausting and futile endeavor, even as we cling to familiarity and routine. If you attempt to enact change in yourself, it’s only human to find that your innate ability to resist it, to negotiate it, grows as well.
It takes a conscious effort to truly enact change for the better, to be aware of our thoughts and to course correct whenever we’re slipping into our old habits. If we want to grow, to evolve, and to live our best lives, we must recognize that change is not the enemy. Rather, it's our resistance to change, the way we cling to old habits instead of forming better ones, that hinders us.
Just as I discovered during my culinary adventure, you might also be pleasantly surprised at how the world can readily adapt to your willingness to change. It's the internal negotiations, the self-doubt, and the fear of judgement we have that can hold us back.
So, as you navigate through life, remember that change is your ally, not your adversary.
We’re so conditioned to believe that things must be done the way they were always done before, and that our way is right. However, if you could introspect for a while, let yourself be more open-minded and explore for a while, you’ll soon come to find, as I did, that the world need not be the same way it has always been.
The world may have already moved on, it’s up to you to change with it.