The Change Inside

Do you remember what happened in November 2008? You could ask «Where?», and my reply would be «everywhere», because it was an important event for the entire world. Barack Obama won the elections and became the first Afro-American President of the United States.

I know, it seems ages.

Change as a value

Do you remember the slogans of Obama’s electoral campaign? They were very simple: «Yes, we can», for example. And another one, even simpler: «Change». Sometimes there was a strapline «We can believe in it», as per we can believe in change.

More than ever, after that event, after Barack Obama won, everybody wants Change. If you want to change, you’re good; if not, you’re bad. Of course, we could talk about the gap between the intention and the actions. But this is not my point.

What I want to emphasize is that change, instead of being regarded simply as a tool, became a value. Became desirable per se. And this is the first problem. Because change is a way to obtain something. And if we confuse a tool for an objective, we loose the sense of direction.

Secondly, change is complicated. Is might not be so desirable as someone would say.

The happiest day of our lives

What’s the happiest day of our life? For the married ones, the answer could be «the day of my wedding». And, surely, we would agree that was an happy day. But according to Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe, from the Washington University School of Medicine, the issue might be more complicated.

In the late Sixties of the past centuries, Holmes and Rahe created the Social Readjustment Rating Scale. They made a list of the most stressful events that a person can experience in its life. And not surprisingly, alle these events are changes. The Top Five are something that we could guess: the death of loved one, a divorce, to be put in jail, a bad incident that left us severely injured, and so on.

But, curiously, at the sixth place we can find the marriage. I don’t know if it works even for people married several times, what I know is that a marital reconciliation is at place number eight.

«Money, get away»

The point is, that even a change that we see as a positive one, can be stressful. Another example? Many of us – particularly the ones not so young – are looking forward to the day of their retirement from work. We’ll have time for us, for reading, watching series on TV, go to the cinema, or museum, or stadium, or playing videogame. We’ll have time to spend with our grandchildren, if we have any.

Well, in the Holmes and Rahes’ scale, Retirement is at the place number eight – same as marital reconciliation – as a change that produces stress. And what about money? «Change in financial state» is at place number twelve. Please note: I wrote ‘change in financial state’, that means ‘less money’, but also ‘more money’.

As Newton used to say

Why are we so upset by the changes, even when they’re for good? Since I’m a physicist, I would say that the answer is in the Inertia Principle. The brightest definition of this principle is given by Isaac Newton:

An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon an unbalanced force

Things love to remains the same. Change is something that costs. But since we, as human beings, are not ‘simply’ an ‘object’, we need a little more elaborated answer.

A plate in the dark

We face a change with a sort of libra. On one plate,  we put the things that we’re going to lose. On the other one, we put the things that we’re going to gain, thanks to the change we are facing. The problem is that this second plate is in the dark. We have a clear perception of what we have now, but for the things that are coming, we don’t have the same clarity. And even when we have it, is a theoretical clarity, compared to a practical one.

To explain my point of view, if I use a personal anecdote. For some years, I used to live in a wonderful place. I rented a little flat in the heart of the ancient Rome. From one of my windows I had a view on the Palatin hill, and the distance from my door’s house to the Foro Romano was around one hundred steps. Believe me, it was incredible. Nevertheless, during the first week that I spent in that flat, I wasn’t happy. I was worried, I was confused. In my mind it was perfectly clear that I had a fantastic opportunity to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. But, even so, I was disturbed by my new situation.

Take your time

We have to accept this. We have to understand that any change is a kind of little revolution. And that we need time, to fully appreciate what the new situation brings to us. If you’re passionate in videogame, you know what I mean. You need time to learn what you have to do and how to do it, before to begin to have fun. And if you love novels, you need time to get into the story, to appreciate the characters, to feel yourself involved in the narrative path. And how many times, at the very beginning, we hate our new smartphone or laptop or car, because we’re not yet able to use it properly?

Change is not only a rationale things. Is not only about listing pros and cons. It’s also about feelings. Yes, we need a clear understanding of what, precisely, is going to change. But we also need some time, and patience, to live it.


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