Why does the past dictate the future so royally? When babies are born, they are blank canvases. Their every perception about the world is based on lived experience, especially during the first 7 years of life. They naturally interpret this experience as the absolute truth. This gives the brain the stability of knowing what to expect and direction for maximizing the probability of survival. It also seems to make sense, “If I live in the world, then my experience must say something about that world in general.” The problem is that the older we get, the more closed-off we become to new possibilities. As we accumulate experiences (evidence as the brain sees it), the rigidity of our most important beliefs about ourselves and the world around us increases. Wisdom, however, leads us to take a broader view of life.
Everything around you is constantly changing. Here in the Midwestern United States, we have four seasons–summer, fall, winter, and spring. Every 3 months, the weather transitions to a totally new norm. There are days we experience rain, snow, and sunshine all within hours of one another. Nature is constantly changing. But in a sense so, too, are people. With every passing moment, we are either becoming more rooted in our ways or are evolving to see things in a different light. Anyone who holds the same attitude toward life for 10 years will not be the same person 10 years later. After 10 years, they will have accumulated more memories (interpretations of lived experience) that reinforce who they are. On the other hand, an open mind enables people to constantly revise past memories in the light of newer, better information. People may adopt beliefs, attitudes, and aspirations different than the ones they had before. The extent to which these differences better serve their interests is the extent to which they have mastered the art of change.
All resolutions to change are motivated by the right belief that change is within the realm of possibility. To resolve is to recognize that the way things are is not the way things have to be. To resolve is to treat every day as a new life. It requires embracing the unknown and it starts with the decision to suspend old ways of thinking and being with the belief that something better can take their place. To resolve requires courage because change can inspire fear. Having certainty about the future, even if that certainty is far from the ideal, provides a sense of order and security (a comfort zone). To resolve is to temporarily welcome chaos (the absence of order and security) into one’s life for the opportunity to transform it into something positive.
The inherent nature of life is constant change. To fear change is to fear life itself.Jonathan Lockwood Huie
I like new year’s resolutions. But I like daily resolutions even better. If I can recognize an area I need improvement in why wait for the calendar to change? The scale I have works 365 days a year. And so does my faculty of reason and ability to self-revise. We’re here today, so make every resolution you can think of. But this year resolve to resolve. Make a decision to pursue change whenever and wherever you recognize that it is in order.
Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.John F. Kennedy
Happy New Year! What are some ways you are resolving to be better this year?