Dec. 2, 2006 – When you learn more about yourself and think about your past experiences, you probably will find how much you’ve already learned from living without fully realizing it. But what about those exterior massive changes that affect all of us, over which we have no control – the economy, war, accidents, and now, the growing threat of terrorism?
I turned to a real expert in helping people understand and cope with change, Dr. Leon Martell who I interviewed at length several years ago. He is a political scientist and futurist. He was formerly Executive Vice President of the world famous think tank, the Hudson Institute. I talked with him about how individuals can cope with changes in their lives.
“The important thing is very simple,” Dr. Martell replied. “It’s to recognize that changes are occurring. It sounds so obvious, yet, again and again, when we make our plans for the future, we do so on the basis of what we’ve seen happen in the past. It’s perfectly natural because it’s familiar. You’ll find that many future studies begin ‘if present trends continue.’ Business as usual is the baseline from which most companies begin their forecasts.
“Individuals have to get over that tendency by looking at change as natural and continuity as unnatural. Present trends don’t always continue. Business as usual is unusual.
“Changes do have patterns – in direction, magnitude, pace and duration. You can’t always see every dimension in detail, but you can see some of them. All changes can be divided into two categories: structural changes and cyclical changes. Structural changes are ongoing, permanent and irreversible. You can’t go back to where you were before the advance of knowledge in any field. In medicine, for example, you don’t go back to the past; you go to a higher level.
“On the other hand many trends are often cyclical changes that tend to go up and down. Businesses and recoveries, crime and divorce rates, supply and demand, etc.
“Then you must understand that each type of change requires a different response. You look at patterns. What is the direction of this change? What is its magnitude? Look at those changes most likely to affect your life and focus on those. What it comes down to are these simple steps: Recognize that change is occurring Use your judgment to rank how likely they are to occur, identify those changes that affect your particular activities, determine the type and their pattern, and rank them by the likelihood of their occurrence. Then you have a handle on it. This evaluation has to be going on continuously because change is coming faster.”
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