Human beings are creatures of habit. We seek the things we want with the least possible disruption to our lives; hence we tend to resist change. The choice is straightforward – make a positive change for life… or pay the price!
As management guru Tom Peters once put it: “Change is disruptive . . . But it doesn’t make any difference. You gotta do it anyway. We’re in an era where, literally, to learn to love change is the only survival course.”
Let’s get it straight: If you keep doing what you have always done, you will continue to get the results that you have been getting. Unfortunately, there can be no improvement without change. Positive change for life is necessary. Without change you will be risking your future, as is illustrated by the following Sufi parable…
The Tale of the Sands
A stream, from its source in far-off mountains, passing through every kind of description of countryside, at last reached the sands of the desert. Just as it had crossed every other barrier, the stream expected to cross this one, but it found that as fast as it flowed into the desert, just as fast its waters disappeared into the sands.
It was convinced, however, that its destiny was to cross this desert, and yet there was no way.
Before long, the stream heard a voice whispering from the desert itself, “The wind crosses the desert, so can the stream.”
“Yes, but the wind can fly!” cried out the stream, as it kept dashing itself into the desert sands.
“You’ll never get across that way,” the desert whispered once again. “You’ll have to let the wind carry you.”
“But how?” cried out the stream.
“You have to let the wind absorb you.”
This idea was not acceptable to the stream. After all, it had never been absorbed before. It didn’t want to lose its identity. So, it asked the desert,
“Once I give myself to the winds, how can I be sure of ever becoming a stream again?
‘The wind,’ said the desert, ‘performs this function. It takes up water, carries it over the desert, and then lets it fall again. Falling as rain, the water again becomes a river.’
The desert told the stream that, if it wished, it could continue to flow into the sand, and that one day, after many, many years, it might even become a swamp on the desert’s edge. But, it would never cross the desert as long as it remained a stream.
“Why can’t I remain the same stream that I am?” asked the stream.
“You cannot remain as you are. Either you give yourself to the wind or you become a swamp.” the desert said. “By giving yourself to the wind, your essential part is carried away and forms a stream again. You are called what you are even today because you do not know which part of you is the essential one.”
The stream could not believe it, but realised that the best that could be attained without attempting the suggestion would be to become a swamp. Either way the stream could not stay as it was.
The stream was silent for a long time, listening to certain echoes deep within itself, remembering parts of itself having been held in the arms of the wind before. And then slowly, the stream raised its vapors into the welcoming arms of the wind and was borne upward and over the desert in great white clouds.
As it passed beyond the mountains on the desert’s far side, there it began to fall as a gentle rain.
At first it was hushed and quiet, trickling down the rocky slopes. But gradually it increased in strength, as rivulets ran over the rocks and around the bent and twisted trees that grew there. And soon it was flowing as swift currents of water into the beginning of a stream.
Like the mountain stream, each of us is called upon to change continuously, in every arena of our existence, whether it is in our family life, in our profession or in the world at large. Change is the dominant force in these times. Change happens to us whether we like it or not, whether we are prepared for it or not.
In almost the blink of an eye, our society has passed from the Industrial Age to the Information Age – from the age of jobs and employment to the age of the entrepreneur and the self-employed – the age in which knowledge and information are the keys to opportunity and advancement. The information revolution is a revolution in power. More and more of it is vested in people with knowledge. The knowledge revolution rewards ‘intellectual entrepreneurs’.
The discontinuity we are now living through will be as disruptive to our lives, and as beneficial, as the Industrial Revolution was to the lives of our grand-parents. The way we live will change dramatically enough over just the next few years to alter the very structure of out society, empowering some and disenfranchising others.
In a large part, our success in life is measured by how effectively we embrace change.
The greatest barrier to change is the assumption that it simply happens and you don’t have to do anything about it, or that people must change because it is necessary to do so. People will not change until they perceive that the advantages of changing outweigh the disadvantages of continuing with the way things are. People are more comfortable with old problems than with new solutions. In fact, it often takes an emotionally stirring event, such as a job loss or health setback, to jolt someone into making a change.
Change of all kinds – economic, social, cultural, technological, and political – is happening at accelerating rates. In some areas, it is not just accelerating but exploding! And none of this shows any signs of slowing in our lifetime.
Not seeing change is one thing. Seeing it, yet still resisting, is fatal. This is the future, and it won’t wait till you are ready. Either you change with the times or pay the price.