I’m no behavioral psychologist – or any psychologist for that matter – but spend a few minutes observing mankind and it becomes rapidly apparent that we are hardwired to resist change.
And why wouldn’t we be? Our species’ history is rife with evidence that change doesn’t always work out so well. Build the world’s largest passenger liner? Hit an iceberg. Invite your new neighbors to Thanksgiving? Catch smallpox. Add apples to your diet? Get expelled from paradise.
It’s no wonder fiscal conservatives coast to coast are pushing to drop from circulation the U.S. penny: when it comes to change, most of us would simply rather go without. (Punny enough for you?)
There’s indubitably a good evolutionary reason behind human beings’ tendency to resist change: enter a situation with a tested outcome and your survival rate is bound to skyrocket; venture into uncharted territory and you could be eaten by a saber-tooth. Even today. They’re rampant in Brooklyn.
But while I have no doubt natural selection is the driving force behind our inherent fear of the unknown, a refusal to leave one’s comfort zone can also have disastrous effects. How many times have you witnessed a friend stay in a floundering relationship far too long because he was afraid to start over? How many times have you watched someone remain in an unfulfilling career because she didn’t want to begin again from scratch? How many times have you re-watched Jumanji on TBS, commercial breaks and all, instead of starting Breaking Bad like everyone tells you to? I rest my case.
Rarely is our resistance to change more apparent than in the realm of weight loss and fitness, where our bodies literally fight back against change at all cost. Run three miles after a month of idleness and your quadriceps will hate you. Swap out real dessert for fruit salad and you’ll go to bed feeling downright deprived. Push back dinner so you can go to the gym and your stomach will growl louder than those bulky bros in free weights. Our hominid bodies were wired back in our nomad days to retain calories and build energy stores, and when it comes to corporal memory, old habits die hard.
But sometimes it’s the hardest things in life that are the most worth doing. I’m not going to lie – changing my lifestyle between January 2011 and today was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. In order to lose 30+ pounds and keep it off, I had to change practically everything I knew and loved: my snacking habits, my love of calorie-laden craft beer, my indolent lifestyle, my lackadaisical gym routine. And once I got my weight down and started training for the Marine Corps Marathon last fall, I had to shake up my routine further yet, sacrificing prime Friday night real estate for Saturday long runs and swapping Wednesday happy hours for mid-week hill sprints. It was change and it was hard, but when I crossed that finish line at 3:51 and immediately started planning for my next marathon, I knew it was worth it.
I still fight change – to do so is in my very nature as a human – but I’ve learned in recent years that sometimes a little change-up is worth embracing. That’s certainly the case in fitness, but the same can be said of most things in life, from date night destinations to professional advancement, the latter of which has been very much on my mind as I begin my new job at a new company in a new part of town.
I’ve just finished day four, and I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been strange forging a familiar work environment for something totally new and different. In fact, as I walked into my new building Monday, my nervous self could have used a little reminder that change is usually a good thing.
And what do you know? It got one.
As I picked up my visitor’s badge on day one, the welcome desk opted to use a stored headshot of me from a guest visit to the building in 2009, rather than snapping a new photo. They printed my temporary ID badge with this flattering photo:
A few hours later, I went to pick up my new, permanent ID with an up-to-date headshot, and this is what I found:
Nothing like a little pictorial evidence to drive the point home: despite our born and bred resistance to it, change is more-often-than-not a very good thing. Perhaps it’s time we all changed our attitude about it.
How are you embracing change this summer?