Keeping Up and Letting Go
Change has been around since the beginning of time, but these days, it’s not so much change itself that’s making us a little crazy, but the speed at which change is occurring.
I’ve experienced and observed so many examples of this during the last few weeks and it is truly astounding how rapidly things are shifting, and how those who can’t adapt are being left behind.
The biggest explosion of change has of course been due to technology. We were on a path of technological change for a few decades, but it felt like there was a choice. You could use a computer or you could just keep writing things out. You could buy a cellphone, but if that phone attached to the wall worked for you, it wasn’t really necessary.
Over time, with the advent of smart-technology, we all had to adapt because it’s everywhere. Smart phones, smart appliances, and smart chips in our cars. But again, there was some wiggle room to avoid the changes, mostly taken advantage of by those who prefer a more natural lifestyle and older people who didn’t want to reinvent the wheel.
Now, there’s really no choice. If you want to stay connected to people, you have to use the technology for personal and professional reasons. If you want to stay competitive at work, you’d better not be pushing paper anymore. If you want to travel, shop, go out to eat, get directions to a destination or pretty much anything else, you’d better be at least somewhat tech savvy. Even managing our healthcare is dependent on technology. And the changes in technology alone are coming faster and faster so now’s the time to figure out how to keep up.
Doing that means letting go of old ways of being. And that could mean pushing ourselves to adapt to the changes in some uncomfortable ways. I went through this over the past 3 weeks with this podcast. I don’t like having my picture taken, so you can imagine how much less I like being on video. That is the reason I have loved radio work and the podcast for the past couple of decades. No mug on screen and I’m a happy camper.
But YouTube is the largest podcast platform in the world now, so being an older person myself, my staff let me know that I had to start talking to a camera. Now, of course I could have said no. But this is the crux of change. If I dig in my heels and say no because podcasts are an audio format, which I believe is true, I will find myself obsolete before too long. I had to consider my goals versus my discomfort. My goal is to spread mindfulness as far and wide as possible. So now the podcast is available in audio and video format. I just don’t watch the video version to tame my anxiety and I keep in mind that I have to let go of my safety zone if I want to achieve my goals.
I have a relative who is in construction management and just recently changed jobs. He was looking forward to going to work for a family run business, but things turned south quite quickly when he discovered that everything is done on paper. Blueprints, project tracking and more are all paper-based, despite the fact that most companies in the field use electronic formats to get things built.
The owner, an older gentleman, likes things done the way they’ve always been done. So my relative spends the majority of his time processing paper instead of getting productive work done. I get both sides of this coin because there’s comfort for the owner in feeling competent and I’m sure the thought of learning technology is not only overwhelming but provokes fear that he may not be able to do it. I think that’s a perfectly human response, but my relative is probably already looking for another job because it’s quite unfulfilling to spend your days hunting through stacks of paper and feeling grossly inefficient.
With real estate and labor costs at an all-time high, it’s not the smartest move to stick to your comfort zone. This guy is probably wondering why he can’t keep talented people or why his competitors are able to outbid him on jobs because they aren’t wasting time and money on paper-shuffling instead of tasks that bring in money. But the appeal of believing there’s no reason to change because what we’ve been doing has worked so far won’t hold. The pace of change will simply run over these people or businesses.
It's not just older people that have this problem. Right now, there are millions of younger people hoping that their working conditions won’t change. They either want to stay home comfortably cocooned in their safe space or they want the world to go back to the way it was a few years ago so they can regain their old routines. It’s again understandable, but resisting change only increases stress. Work is rapidly changing and to be successful, we have to adapt to the changes. We also have to let go of the way things were.
I have to say that I’ve kept up with computer and phone technology pretty well, but I’ve fallen behind in other areas. I resisted digital books for a long time, loving the way a hard covered book feels in my hands, the smell of the paper, the comfort of the weight on my lap. But again, real estate is a prime commodity including in my small house, so considering I read at least one book a week and have done so for the past 50 years, that’s a problem. And the amount of time wasted hunting through a paper bound book to find some specific information I need for work is ridiculous when if digital, I can simply search for a word or phrase to find it. Then there’s the wasted time of moving books. Every time I need to rearrange the office to make space for a piece of recording equipment, it takes hours to unload and reload moved bookshelves. So I had to let it go. I use digital versions of books for work and pleasure now. I still have a few hundred old-fashioned books that I have to spend time tracking on a spreadsheet in order to find what I need, but as I convert the ones I need to electronic formats, they will go the way of landline phones.
I also haven’t kept up with automobile technology. Cars are just not my thing. I don’t consider them a status symbol and from a financial perspective they make no sense to me. The second you drive off the lot, the car starts depreciating in value, yet people make payments with interest for up to 7 years now on an object that becomes more and more worthless. Then there’s the time-consuming maintenance. Even washing a car irritates me. It’s just going to get immediately dirty again, so I feel like it’s a futile endeavor.
Since I do have to have transportation however, I buy cars only when absolutely necessary and I go for the best deal I can find for a reliable ride. Over the years that has included spending $1 on a 1972 Mustang that I drove for a year, finding my dream car, a Jeep Wrangler, for less than half the price they were going for at the time and which I drove for 15 years, and buying my last car for $1,800. It was 10 years old when I bought it and I’ve had it for another 10 years. But it’s on its last leg, so I had to break down and find a car this week.
The paperwork seemed to take forever, and again, why the old-fashioned paper? Not only did it take a couple of hours to handwrite and sign multiple forms, but now I have a stack of paper I have to waste time on scanning because I run a paperless office. That dealership needs to keep up and let go for sure. But anyway, I was finally about to be freed from the dealership when the salesman handed me a black gadget with no visible buttons and said, “go ahead and get in the car and I’ll show you the basics of the navigation and entertainment system.” I stared at the gadget and had to say to him, I have no idea what to do with this. This poor young guy was very good. He showed me how to pop the key out of its hiding chamber and explained what the very small buttons I missed on the side of the fob covered. Then he asked me, what year is the car you’re driving now? When I said a 2003, he replied, okay, let’s both get in the car so I can show you how everything works.
I could see the humor in the situation. And I could see his relief when he was about to cover the media system that I did have a smart-phone and knew how to use bluetooth. But it was a good reminder to me that I hadn’t kept up in this arena and that I don’t want to be that person that younger people assume is incompetent.
(By the way, I got a great deal on the car, so I was able to hang on to one old way of doing things, but I had to let go of resisting learning a lot of new details in order to take full advantage of the car I’ll probably spend the next 10 years in.)
The rapid pace of change also means we have to let go of perfectionism now, not just because it’s better for our mental health but because it’s a necessity if we want to keep up. This one’s tough for me, to be honest, but I can waste a lot of time nit-picking details until they’re perfect or I can let my staff do their jobs and accept that most people could care less about those minute details that I have always held as rules. Take a moment to consider whether you might have any of these perfectionistic tendencies that might be holding up progress at work or interfering with your enjoyment of life.
All of this constant rapid change can wreak havoc with our comfort zones, but consider that when we’re in our comfort zones, we’re not learning or growing, both of which are important not only for success but for our mental health.
Mindfulness can help us navigate these changes as we learn to stop taking things personally, strengthen our ability to self-regulate, broaden our perspective to see that there is no one way to do something, and work through the fears that erupt as we’re pushed toward the unknown.
As simple as it sounds, pausing to take a breath before reacting to anything is a powerful first step. It’s really not uncommon to feel like something is being done to us, so as we pause and breathe, we can remind ourselves that this is not true. Something has changed and we have a choice as to how to respond to it. The less reactive and more responsive we become, the less impact change has on us.
Remember, the brain isn’t thinking. It’s responding to our thoughts or emotions or external events. When change impacts us, we typically get a hit of adrenaline and a spike of fear because we’re suddenly facing the unknown. That stimulates the brain to release stress hormones to put us in the fight, flight or freeze response. And that’s just not helpful. We can’t fight the onslaught of change, nor can we run from it. Many freeze in reaction to it, but that’s not going to help in the long-run. We’ll just have a bigger mountain to climb when we’re finally forced to change.
A better strategy is to try to keep up. I don’t think any of us can keep up with everything, so I’m certainly not saying that. But in the areas of your work, general technology and shifting societal norms like communication, parenting, education and relationships, notice any that you resist or avoid. Spend some time internally exploring what’s really causing the resistance. Look at what you might have to let go of in order to adapt to the change.
Sometimes it can feel frightening. When the big announcements came out a few weeks ago about an AI app that wrote an essay, I thought uh-oh. I spend the majority of my time writing, so am I about to be replaced with artificial intelligence? Maybe, but I think I still have some time left. However, I need to stay up to date on AI so that I can respond if my writing skills are deemed antiquated. Avoiding the knowledge or resisting the facts of what’s coming won’t serve me. And as with all change, we may not like it, but that doesn’t prevent it from happening.
Mindfulness is awareness of what’s occurring within us and around us in the present moment. Big changes are going to continue to come, but if we choose specific areas that are applicable to each of us to keep up with, and if we practice letting go what needs to go, we can adapt to whatever is new and determine how we can
utilize the new to best serve our needs.
For good or ill, change is happening so why not consider embracing the shifts and recognizing that as with everything, it’s not permanent. Every change will change, eventually. In 2022, 1980s fashion styles were trendy and big plans were launched to get us to the moon, good examples of how frequently we change back into previous changes.
None of this is to say it’s easy. It’s not. There are days when I think, that’s it. I can’t learn one more new thing. But then I do and so do you. We can shift our thinking more toward curiosity about whatever’s changing instead of fearing it. As with everything mindful, it just takes practice. And don’t you agree that’s a much healthier response to change than digging our heels in and refusing to adapt? It’s the difference between failure and success or surviving and thriving. Which will you choose?
This podcast is part of the Airwave Media podcast network. Visit AirwaveMedia.com to listen and subscribe to other great shows like The Daily Meditation Podcast, Everything Everywhere and Movie Therapy. We’d deeply appreciate your support at patreon.com/amindfulmoment. Our podcast is now available to view on our YouTube Channel, so be sure to follow us there and on Instagram @amindfulmomentpodcast. Visit our website, amindfulmoment.com to access podcasts, scripts and book recommendations.
A Mindful Moment is written and hosted by Teresa McKee and/or Melissa Sims.