Years ago, I started following Chris Guillebeau, at the time he was touring the world and figuring out how to travel to every country listed by the UN until his 30th birthday or so. I remained a reader, but my engagement varied. I came to be more curious about his evolution. Traveling, building a business, and side hustle, have all been part of his journey. As more people have become willing to talk about their mental health, I wasn’t too astonished and yet astonished that it had become a subject he wanted to talk about.
But I’ve also become hesitant when I see subjects appear that have become part of the mainstream. They are a cause for concern as they exist but also because of the way they worry people.
We live in a world in which subjects that cause worry also invite the idea that there is something wrong with this subject and that it needs to be solved. It means that there is a desire for the cause and the problem to disappear.
Sadly, this seems possible for some subjects or things, but it most certainly isn’t truly possible.
A car can be repaired and may then seem like new. A person might need surgery and feel well afterwards. And that’s what’s relevant, the function and the sense of doing well have been re-established. But that doesn’t make it disappear, we simply forget or decide that the memory isn’t relevant anymore. What changed is that the need to act in the situation as well as the change it brought were accepted.
When humans and their behavior are involved, the situation is slightly more complicated to grasp. Someone’s behavior is always aligned with the thoughts and emotions that enabled the behavior. These thoughts and emotions are aligned with someone’s perception of themselves, the person, and the situation they are relating to in that moment.
Consequently, their behavior will always depend on their intention and their perception in the moment. And both are the result of learning they’ve been able to do until then as well as the condition of being a human being. It is possible to change our learning, but it is impossible to eliminate the survival mechanisms humans use to keep themselves going.
What is possible is to learn to slow the survival mechanism down to then choose one’s response. Possibly choose to thrive if it’s helpful in that moment.
But there will be times when automatism will take over again, it’s their role.
Otherwise, one couldn’t walk and talk at the same time.
In this human effort to get rid of something through change, it’s worth considering the paradoxical theory of change. It states, “Change does not take place through a coercive attempt by the individual or by another person to change him, but it does take place if one takes the time and effort to be what he is — to be fully invested in his current positions.”
Instead of trying to change ourselves and others, it is maybe much more as Pete Carroll shared in a recent press conference: “The essence of being as good as you can be is you gotta figure out who you are”. At the core of his work with the Seattle Seahawks that enabled them to be a great team was assisting players in making the effort to understand what is important to them and what principles they stand by.
As human beings who constantly have to relate with others, figuring out who one is may not be sufficient. It’s just as relevant to be curious about who the other is.