Embracing Change as We Move Into the Age of Experience
As the year and the decade draw to a close, I thought it might be interesting to reflect back on the past decade and review some of the newsworthy highlights...I was wrong (ha!). Bearing in mind that the media focuses much more on negative news than positive, I still couldn’t find enough positive news to sound anything more than depressing. So then I thought I’d just reflect on this year. Same problem. I decided to stop looking further before my mood plummeted. It has been a pretty challenging decade, which may explain why so many people feel anxious so much of the time. But, as I had to remind myself as I perused one disaster or scandal after another, it is not the news stories causing my decline in mood, it is my judgment of those stories creating my sinking feeling.
We always have a choice in how we respond to events around us. Despite the turmoil, tragedies and corruption occurring around the world, there is hope in these events. As a species, individually and collectively, we don’t typically change anything until it has hit rock bottom. So perhaps all of the negative news is a sign that we’re close to changing things for the better. When things get broken enough, we take action, so instead of my judging individual events as “bad,” I can step back and look at the bigger, longer picture and see these events as simply actions in a process leading to improvements.
We are definitely in the midst of a massive shift as the digital age begins winding down, but what are we moving towards? It’s important to note that shifting between ages is not a quick process, nor does it occur simultaneously around the globe. The industrial age began around 1760 in England and spread across the world in phases. Although it was replaced by the digital age in developed countries around the 1970s with the introduction of the personal computer, there are still many 3rd world countries stuck in that industrial era, dependent on manufacturing as their economic foundation.
For the rest of us, it has taken about 55 years to approach the end of something called Moore’s Law, which predicted that computing power would double every two years. Mr. Moore was very correct and that rapid change is what has created our constant need for speed, entertainment, social media platforms, continuous new technological advances and devices, and complete information overload. Traditional computing power has recently slowed down dramatically, however, and marks what will be the end of the digital age, probably within about ten more years. What is emerging is the next era, currently being referred to as the Age of Experience. It is predicted to be an age where we seek more human connection and where we move from gathering mass amounts of data to using it to improve our life experiences.
Technology is shifting to artificial intelligence and we can’t possibly imagine how this will affect our futures, just as no one could have predicted the impact a personal computer would have on everything in society - from communications, shopping, and knowledge-gathering, to major shifts in our social interactions, political processes, and economic strategies.
But what is known is that we’re again in the midst of a major shift and change is usually uncomfortable. We wish for the “good old days,” when life was simpler. We’re learning-fatigued, tired of constantly having to learn new hardware, software, apps, norms and communication styles. We’re bombarded with information that we don’t know how to use in a meaningful way. We’re wary of governments and corporations, with distrust of those institutions at an all-time high. And we’re lonelier - as online interactions have replaced so much of what was previously in-person conversations and activities.
There are many, many advantages we’ve gained through technology, from improvements in healthcare, to space technology, to connecting with people around the world that would have been impossible 50 years ago. We’ve simply reached "saturation" at this point. And that’s prompting the shift we’re starting to feel, even if we haven’t recognized it for what it is. Moving into an age of experience means reconnecting with people as well as learning to use the best of technology and information instead of being drowned by it. Companies are shifting toward rebuilding trust with consumers. People are yearning for meaningful connection again, instead of just connecting with a screen. I can’t predict what governments will do, but I confess I’m less hopeful that they’ll keep up. Which may make the current political climate a beacon of hope. Perhaps these old, massive, power and wealth-based institutions will be forced to change their structures and processes to better meet the needs of their people.
So back to reflections. Instead of reflecting on the news of the past year, we can each individually reflect on our own past experiences. We can’t predict the future, but we can learn from our past. Take a little time to note what went well for you this year. Be grateful and consider how you can do more of that in the new year. Perhaps more importantly, what didn’t go so well? What can you learn from what didn’t work the way you hoped it would? Instead of making new year resolutions, contemplate intentions you can set each day that will increase your positive experiences and help you reframe any failures you had in 2019 into learning opportunities for 2020. We only learn from failures, so be grateful for those, too.
And as we continue our progression into the new age of experience, remember that we can’t individually stop change because it makes us uncomfortable. Acceptance is a key aspect of mindfulness, so accept that artificial intelligence, robots, and who knows what else are coming. Instead of resisting what is happening, accept that it is happening and focus on how you can improve your own life experience by utilizing these advances in technology.
As I reflect back on this year, I have much to be grateful for. I’m grateful for you, our listeners. I am so appreciative of my wonderful staff. I’m grateful for my clients. I enjoyed good health, financial success and meaningful work. But in reflecting on the last 12 months, I can also see mistakes were made. At the top of the list, my personal relationships pretty much fell to the wayside, as I was so busy with work, I spent much less time with family and friends than I normally do. That’s not a judgment, but simply an observation, which is exactly what makes reflection such a valuable tool. My intentions for the new year will be to continue to build on everything that went great in 2019, but to also make more room for my personal relationships as well.
As you reflect on your year, I hope you can look at the events and trends of your year without judgment, but as a neutral observer. Unlike data overload, this information is useful now to improve your experiences in the new year.
Happy New Year,