Broadly speaking, there are two political outlooks on change. Reactionaries see change as a bad thing, something to be treated with caution. Revolutionaries celebrate and embrace change.
Take, for instance, attitudes towards the rapid changes in society due to technology. A reactionary would voice concerns about children playing video games, about the short attention spans caused by the internet, and about security and privacy risks. A revolutionary would talk about the new possibilities created – new ways of working, new art forms, and new connections with people all around the world.
Who’s right? Neither. Sometimes, we need change in order to get rid of things which aren’t working. And sometimes, we need to recognize the value of what we already have.
Are You Reactionary or Revolutionary?
I suspect that you’ll find your attitudes towards personal change tend towards one end of the spectrum or the other. Maybe you’re very cautious about change and you feel very anxious at the thought of leaving your job, or moving to a new city or even country. Or maybe you get bored if you stick in one place too long, and you want to always be on the move.
I think the healthiest attitude of change blends both the reactionary and the revolutionary outlooks. It’s a flexible way of looking at change and making the best of each situation.
Advantages of the Reactionary Mindset
Adopting a reactionary viewpoint lets you celebrate the achievements of the past. It means you can look at the times when things have worked for you – and you can learn from these. I find that a good way to do this is to keep up my achievements book and to look at what’s already going well.
A reactionary mindset can help you avoid making unnecessary changes. Sometimes, we end up wanting change for its own sake – whether or not it’s really going to make things better for us. We can end up wasting a lot of time on this. Being reactionary can help keep us on track, especially with long-term goals and projects. Sticking with what worked yesterday or last week may actually be the best way to reach towards many of our goals.
Advantages of the Revolutionary Mindset
When you take a revolutionary viewpoint, you don’t limit yourself by what seems easy or comfortable – or even necessarily possible. You might write out your dream for the future – even if it looks very different to how your life is today. This can help create the motivation that you need to move forwards.
Sometimes, our life does need sweeping change, and there’s no half-way house. When Peter gave up playing online poker, that was a revolutionary change – he recognized that it was not working for him, and he didn’t just cut back, he stopped altogether.
Blending the Two
So how do you know which way to approach change? I’d suggest that a good place to start is with your usual bias. For me, I know that I get itchy feet easily and I sometimes think that I need to make big, sweeping changes – when actually, I just need to make some small adjustments. Consciously taking a reactionary approach can help me stay balanced.
It’s also often useful to get an outside opinion. You probably have a family member or close friend who’s the polar opposite to you: my fiancé, for instance, tends to be more cautious about change than I am. Having someone to balance your excesses can help you avoid blind spots and potential mistakes.
I find that these are useful questions to ask myself, especially when faced with big changes (we’ve got a lot coming up this year!)
- How can I make small changes now to improve things?
- Where is life going well at the moment?
- Which relationships do I want to foster – and which do I want to let quietly fade?
- How can I build on the successes of the past year?
- What would my ideal day look like?
- What would I like to do which isn’t easily possible in my current circumstances?
- Where do I need a fresh start, and how can I get it?
- Is there a U-turn that I need to make?
Best of luck in all the changes that you choose to make this year – but also in all the things which you decide to keep the same!
Photo by h.koppdelaney