The Thursday Thesis - 25/7/2019
“Dude, you have to leave – you have to leave right now and go and do something that doesn’t make you feel like this, ok?” I told him.
“...But what if I can’t get another job? And I only have 12 years to go before I can retire...” he said, in between the Monday morning sobs that announced another week in the job we both hated.
At the time I was puzzled: why do so many of us do jobs we hate?
When a Gallup Survey suggests that only 13% of the global workforce enjoy their jobs, something funny is going on.
Why do so many people stay on in jobs that they don’t like?
Or stick around in bad relationships?
Or repeat behaviours which make us feel ill – and bad about ourselves?
The answer to those questions – and many more – is the same thing that tends to keep us alive and safe; it’s a basic part of being human.
It turns out that we humans have an inborn tendency to keep doing what we are already doing. We don’t like to rock the boat, and we have a need for stability
Humans are very resistant to change, and strongly attached to the familiar: that’s a strong component in how businesses set about branding and marketing to us, and why existing customers are much easier to sell to than new customers.
And that’s why it’s so hard to leave a job, relationship or change a habit which does not serve us: we are programmed not to change.
Change is hard because humans like things to stay the same all the time – even if that means continuing pain and unhappiness: it’s called homeostasis.
In your body’s self-regulating world, change is bad, because Change is risky – especially in evolutionary terms.
If your current behaviour is keeping you safe and fed, it’s good behaviour and you will fight to continue that behaviour: seems like a good idea, doesn’t it?
The problem here is that your resistance to change is a meta-pattern: it exists across all contexts and all of your behaviour – be it good or bad.
So you’ll hang on to your damaging behaviours with the same tenacity you cling to your helpful behaviours, because change is risky – regardless of whether it is change for the better or for the worse.
Consequently, it’s commonplace to find people who stay in jobs they hate, relationships that hurt, and pursue unhealthy activities – even when they know that these things are damaging and a waste of their time, effort and resources.
I’ve done it, and you probably know someone who has, too you might even know them very, very well...
I stayed in that job – even when Monday morning had me cringeing under the duvet until the very last moment.
I stayed in a relationship – even though it made me feel worthless.
And I continued going to the pub and getting shitfaced, despite the dreadful hangovers that lasted for days and made me feel shabby, helpless and out of control.
So it goes.
We habitually test behaviours which we’ve already proved don’t work for us, because we perceive making a change to be too risky.
But the truth is that NOT making a change is beyond risky: we have proof that not changing doesn’t work, because we’ve tested it and tested it...and it still doesn’t work!
We might rate our chances of success in a new or different endeavour at, perhaps 5% - one chance of success in twenty. We might rightly describe it as “risky” – based upon our best guesses.
But not making the change is proven to have a 100% chance of failure, based upon our solid experience and knowledge.
Let me ask you something: if you were in a car skidding out of control at 80 mph toward a brick wall, would you grab the steering wheel and try to make the car turn in any other direction than toward the wall, even if your chances of avoiding the brick wall were only 5%?
The odds are the same, but you’re going to grab that wheel, aren’t you?
Even though it’s “risky”.
© Neil Cowmeadow 2019
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