Between old and new

Last year we reorganized our kitchen. We put the pans in where the herbs were stored before and the other way around. It took months before I opened the right door when I needed herbs. I felt like a Pavlov dog. But one with awareness of the situation which made me feel like I was in the Twilight Zone. As if I was a marionet being played by old habits and powerless to install new behavior.

We all know that Twilight Zone of change in our work and in our private life. The transition may be about renewing products or processes that are at the end of their life cycle. Or about a relationship that was no longer what it used to be and needs to refresh. Or maybe we recognize that our own way of communicating is no longer effective, we know what we should change but can’t resist our reflexes.

Biology partly explains this phenomenon. All biological creatures are wired for efficiency. We want to save energy because you never know when you’re going to need it. So we are more than happy to repeat the same patterns over and over again until we can execute them without using up cognitive energy. These routines are recorded in the form of neural pathways (fixed connections in our brains). We recycle our behavior so to speak and that’s an efficient, sustainable way of working!

But we are biological beings with imagination. We are capable of separating ourselves from the here and now and observe our own thoughts; we can travel to the future or the past and compare what we see with our current situation. The tension between imagination and reality triggers the impuls to change. That’s how we arrive in the Twilight Zone between what is and what could or should be.

Creation as a basis

Of course we get used to the new situation at some point. We create new neural pathways and feel stable again. That was the popular model of change in the seventies and eighties of the last century people: freeze-unfreeze-freeze. From stable, via unstable to a new stable situation that we stick to for a while. That hasn’t completely disappeared, of course, but the pace of change has increased for many things in recent decades. Reorganizations overlap each other, there are continous updates of operating systems and apps, many young professionals can’t imagine doing the same job for two decades. That means that we have ended up in a permanent Twilight Zone. What worked yesterday does not have to work today. But can work fine again in two months.

After living in that Twilight Zone for decades, I know it is a great place. Everything is possible and you can be anyone you like. But you won’t feel great if you’re hanging on too much to what was and who you were and start to micromanage to perpetuate old ineffective habits. But you will flourish when you allow yourself to let go of fixed ideas and focus on where the energy is. Let that energy inspire you to envision products, processes and new behavior you’d like to create. Experiment and improvise together to realize that vision. Only to let it go again when the energy and effectiveness go away. Creations become the organizing principle as opposed to fixed procedures and habits. You are still respecting your biological nature by the way. The difference is that you’re routinely reinventing reality and yourself. Still routines. But on a higher level that literally repeating your past. That type of routines is even more cyclical and more sustainable than the old way!

George Parker
+31 6 5110 8415