Fear of Change?

I read it all the time in both consulting and self-help literature, “People fear change.” Friends and colleagues have remarked on what they call my “fearlessness” in the face of change.  I have difficulty believing that change is what people really fear. I think it’s loss.

Many change situations, whether positive or negative, involve loss. Getting married or having a baby? Say goodbye to your old life; even some cherished personal relationships may be destined to end. The same thing is true when you leave a job, whether you are promoted, get fired, or quit.

The difference between me and those change-fearing people who find me puzzling is, I believe, a difference in our experience of routine. I find routine very aversive; many people seem to find it comforting. There comes a time, after I have been in a situation for a while, that my actual sensory experience of the place seems to set. When that happens, I can conjure visual and kinesthetic images of something original, dynamic, and alive, but the current experience feels ossified. That is the time when I am ready to leave.

 I have noticed over the years that even in people who fear change, the fondest memories are of life episodes that were brief and temporary in their essence, time-capped and changing in a salient way, not indefinite. Senior year of high school. College. “When my kids were little.” Being a newlywed. Times full of future are the happiest times. They are certainly worth the price of dropping the habit of the 10:22 coffee break and recap of last night’s TV.

One Response to “Fear of Change?”

  1. joefelso Says:

    You are certainly onto something here. I’m a teacher, and I remember having a conversation with colleagues one day about which they preferred, a class they planned that went well or one they hadn’t planned that went well. Nearly universally everyone chose the improvised class, but then agreed they try never to have an unplanned class. Those unplanned classes were happy accidents. We’re so risk intolerant we prefer safety to gambling with loss, which means we prefer ossification to flexibility.

    Thanks for this thoughtful post!

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