CHANGE AND SELF DEVELOPMENT
THE CHANGING WORLD
Let us consider the following facts:
• Man has lives 50,000 thousand years.
• Each life time 62 years.
• We are at present in the 800th life time.
• First 650 were spent in caves.
• Writing was discovered 70 life times ago.
• Printed word only 6 life times ago
• Precise measurement of time just 4 life time ago.
• Overwhelming developments are taking place in this, the 800 life time.
The well known author C.P. Snow remarks:
“Until this century social change was so slow that it would pass unnoticed in one person’s life time”. This is no longer so. The rate of change had increased so much that even once imagination cannot keep up with it.
Let’s consider some more facts:
• Before 1500 AD in Europe only 100 titles (books, research papers, pamphlets, journals) etc. Were published per annum.
• By AD 1950 these had expended to 120000 titles p.a
• A century comprised into 10 months in other words, what quantity was published earlier (450 years back) in a century begin to be published in just 10 months by 1950 AD.
• Today it is 1000 titles per day.
• Scientific literature – alone – 60 million pages p.a.
• From the time a child is born, to the time of its graduation world knowledge expands 4 times.
• By the time one graduates one is already obsolete on top of it. Teachers even more obsolete than the child itself teach the child.
• By the time, the child is 50 years old. World knowledge expands 32 times. Exponential growth of knowledge!
• Obsolescence of knowledge very rapid.
• Difficult to keep pace, one therefore takes to specialization in some branch of knowledge where one can keep reasonable pace with the latest development.
• All is not lost yet. Just as what was once a software has today been embedded into the memory of a computer chip, in the same way, knowledge acquired and digested by one generation is likely to be transferred genetically in the subsequent once, provided it keeps on assimilating as much knowledge as possible and remains sexually active as long as possible.
1600 B.C. Camel Caravans 8 m.p.h.
1610 B.C. Chariot invented 20 m.p.h.
1825 A.D. Steam locos 13 m.p.h.
1980 A.D. - Do- 100 m.p.h.
1938 A.D. Aeroplanes 400 m.p.h.
1960 A.D. Rockets 4800 m.p.h.
Space Vehicles 18000 m.p.h.
1714 A.D. Patent for Typewriter
1864 A.D. Commercial Production
1836 A.D. First Agricultural Machine
1930 A.D. Machine Marketed
The cycle from concept to commercial production to marketing the products which took 94 to 150 years earlier (as shown above) takes less than a year in case of most products these days.
Extremely rapid scientific discoveries lead to rapid obsolescence of products launched. As a result, even 1 year old discoveries become obsolete especially in the fields of:
URBAN POPULATION GROWTH - DOUBLING EVERY 11 YEARS
• For 81.5 Centuries Q/2 Per Century
• By 1850 A.D. Q Per Century
• Today 10Q Per Century
In past 100 years, we have consumed 2000 years’ fuel.
• Total output of Goods and Services doubling every 15 years.
• A child surrounded by everything twice new by the time it becomes a Teenager.
• By 30 years – A second doubling
• By 75 years – Five doublings
• Compared to Birth, by end of life – 32 times new objects surround a person.
• Expectation levels have become quote high.
• Distances reduced.
• Almost real time global communications are possible.
• Advances such as Video-conferencing make it unnecessary to travel.
• Relationships have become numerous, but of shorter duration. They are increasingly based on achievement of purpose rather than on Emotion / Sentiments.
• Concept of time is instant Tea, Instant Coffee, Instant Soup, Instant pre-cooked dishes, Instant Communication and so on.
• People throw away used things. A throw-away society is coming up. Even spouses are sometimes discarded in order to acquire newer and more appropriate ones!
The problem areas:
1. Handling flux of Change,
2. Pressure of Transience,
3. Updating Skills/knowledge,
A STUDY OF THE CHANGE PHENIMENON
Do we ever realize how many changes keep coming in our own life? If we pause to about it, we would be surprised. The first change occurs when we are born.
In the mother’s womb, we are in a sage and secure place, floating in the uterine fluid. It is dark inside, quite soothing to the eyes; nutrition comes automatically to as via the placenta, which joins our belly button and the mother’s womb.
As soon as we are born, we find a lot of bright light outside, that bedazzles us. A reflex action shuts our eyes. We are placed on a solid object, a soft cushion. However soft the cushion, it is still much too hard for us as compared to the fluid we were floating in. The outside world is strange, full of noises. The only vaguely familiar thing is the mother’ touch, but she is far too busy recovering for her labor pains to attend to us. In protest, we start crying little realizing that this act of crying makes us to learn breathing. Previously, even oxygen came to us through the motherly connection. In fact, if we do not breathe immediately on birth, the doctor or the mid-wife gives us a gentle hit on the buttocks to make us cry. Any delay in crying means depriving our brain of oxygen and consequent damage to the rain that may be irreversible.
The next change comes when we learn to suckle. No more Automation now! We have to come to the Manual mode! We learn to exert our mouth muscles to take in mother’s milk. Then, learning to raise our head, turning on our sides, watching the world around, recognizing objects by sight, sound, touch and taste. Our best clue to object recognition remains taste for quite some time. Then, creeping, crawling, sitting up, learning to stand up. Walking, earning from mother’s milk to outside milk or solid food etc. Changes after changes come in quick succession. Every change is painful in the beginning, full of frustration at failure to learn properly and adjust to the new situation.
But somehow at the end, we learn and even forget that we had tried to resist or delay that particular
change. We also forget the pains that were associated with each learning process. When we learn and reap the benefits of that learning, we wonder why we were trying such a wonderful thing.
Then, we go to school, learn to play games. Each new game is a change. On completion of studies, we start earning and spend at least the next 40 years in that activity. In the cycle of life, no day is the same as the preceding one.
In the job also, transfers, learning new skills, promotions, super cessions, getting a good boss, a bad boss, new colleagues joining, their getting adapted to the ob, transfers, promotions, sacking, suspensions, resignations or retirements. Even among our neighbors, so many changes keep happening. No facer of life is free from changes. There is nothing constant in life. The only thing that is constant is change itself. Except the Sun, every other object undergoes change.
Scientists tell us now that even the Sun gets magnetic storms occasionally. (Nuclear Physicist Edward Teller says “In all my scientific exploration, the mist inert material that I have come across is the human mind.” All substances can be changed faster and more easily than the human mind).
We cannot stop the march of time by holding on to the minute or hour hand of the clock. In the same way, by holding on to the old habits after the proper time for those habits is over, we cannot stop the coming changes. We merely add to our miseries. In this regard, a poem written by me sometime back is perhaps relevant.
I quote it below:
IN PRAISE OF THOSE WHO CONFORM
Whenever I rebel against an event
Or a phenomenon
I am only admitting that I do not
Comprehended the causes
Underlying that event
The stronger my rebellion,
The farther away am I
From truth in the matter.
When I finally understand
What caused the event.
I revolted against,
I hit upon the axiom
“What happens is right”
For what happens is
A resultant of all the
Forces of nature acting together
And since even Time, the
Fourth dimension has participated.
The result has got to be right.
Now if so many changes are going to come, whether we like it or not, would it not be wise to learn something about change it? What is change? What causes it? How many types of change are there? How to reduce losses to us on account of change? How to cope with change? How to reduce losses to is on account of change? Can we possibly take advantage of the change? Profit instead of loss? How to sense the coming changes? How to prepare ourselves to face the changes? Questions such as the above are proposed to be tackled in what follows this.
Changes can be: (a) brought about by our own selves,
(b) brought about by nature and
(c) brought about by others.
When we ourselves bring about a change, we remain very happy with the change, at least initially. Later on, sometimes we get bored of this change and bring about one more change. It may also happen that a change brought about by us may cause us to repent. Therefore we ought to think about the likely impact, its costs and so on before we bring about any change. This would ensure that the change begets us the desired result. It may not be possible even to stick this advice. We have to experiment to make sure that some aspect of the proposed change had not been taken into account.
When the change is due to natural causes, we know that we are helpless and after grieving for a while, we adjust to the new situation as soon as possible, e.g. when a relative or a dear one dies of an illness, we do mourn but we also begin to live a normal life, soon thereafter.
When other people bring about a change, we usually object to it. We may even protest vehemently in the fashion of a child playing in dirt, being forcibly taken away by mother for bathing and dressing. After dressing up, it feels fresh and is happy. But the fact remains that it did not initially want to be disturbed from whatever activity it was doing.
It is the same thing with adults. When others change something, we, who are used to a particular way of functioning, hate to be disturbed. We protest loudly and pick holes in the new system. What we are doing when we argue is nothing more than rationalizing the basic psychological objection to being disturbed. We get blinded b this psychological block and even when we know at the cerebral level that the proposed change is beneficial. We cannot stop ourselves from opposing it.
Then, there are some people who are likely to be hurt as they have a vested interest in the old system – Usually politicians and sometimes even Union leaders or lately even the Media Moghuls. These people may be working for themselves or for others whose interests are being hurt but who are too clever to protest themselves. Funny thing is that we, the long-term beneficiaries are taken in by their talk. We scarcely realize that they are merely taking advantage of the normal human weakness of initial opposition to any change, whatsoever. If a change is warranted in the nature’s scheme of things, it is going to happen irrespective of the opposition, we can only protest and delay the change; for, delay is all that happens. Naturally, the consequential benefits are also delayed.
Now, let us examine the properties or the attributes to a change:
First, change has a magnitude. Some changes are small while some are big. Some are even profound. A transfer from one section to another is a small change while a transfer to an altogether different department is a big change. A change of job from one company to another on a salary twice or thrice the earlier one is indeed a profound change.
Second, change has direction. /some changes are for the better; they take you up. Some are for the worse; they take you down. Some are neither worse nor better. They merely shift you sideways. From doing filing work is merely a lateral shift. No change in salary, status or even the table. Only the type of work is changed.
Third, change has speed. Some changes come very fast, some very slow. Weakness caused by old age is a slow change. A heart attack comes suddenly. Old age comes creepingly. Both bring weakness. One is sudden; the other slowly creeps in.
Fourth, sometimes we become unhappy when the change expected by us does not come about. When a girl begins to cross the marriageable age and nothing happens she starts muttering that her parents do not care much for her. She forgets that when the very first marriage proposal was mooted, she had coyly opposed it.
When a change comes in someone else’s life, we see it, but do we ever think about that person’s state of mind? Let us take the example of a girl marrying our son and entering our household as bride. The father-in-law, the mother-in-law, the brother-in-law, the sister-in-law – all have varied expectations of her. She is supposed to prove herself as a competent and caring person. Nobody asks her what are her expectations. Nobody realizes that she has left her parents, brothers and sisters, friends, neighbors, a particular life style and has come to an alien world. What she is going through is nobody’s business. Not even the mother-in-law who too had been in a similar position some 25-30 years back. The daughter-in –law who too has dreams, aspirations when we, especially the menfolk, face even a small change, how disturbed do we become? However, we do not show sympathy; leave alone, empathy, for what the daughter-in-law is passing through.
The same thing happens when changes occur in others’ lives. We remain mute witnesses, quite a few times. Sometimes we even laugh at the discomfort felt by the victim of change.
Thus, we have seen that changes would keep coming. Nothing is permanent. In fact, these days, changes are coming at an ever increasing pace. We have to try to sense the coming changes. For this purpose, we should make it a habit to reflect on what is happening now, link it with what happened in the past, work out a trend and predict what could happen in the future. When that particular future comes, review our prediction and analyze causes of variance, if any. If this habit is formed, in course of time, we can learn to predict changes.
If we can sense the coming changes, understand them and try to adjust to them, we could concentrate on reducing any possible losses due to the change. In fact, we could even find out ways of benefiting from the change.
Does that mean that we become a pawn in someone’s hands? Certainly not I am reminded of a Christian prayer in this regard. It says something like this:
“Oh! Lord! Help me to change the things that I can,
Help me not to try to change the things that I cannot,
And above all dear God! Please help me to understand,
What I can what I cannot change in this world of yours!”
We have to learn to discriminate between changes that we need not adjust to and changes that we must bow to. Most trees do not react to a weak wind except to flutter their leaves. When there is a strong wind, some trees bend and are able to come back to their original position, as soon as te wind weakens. Some other trees do not bend and end up losing a few branches but survive. They may even mistakenly ne acclaimed as heroes! Continuing this policy, both types of trees react in the same way when a gust of wind of the proportions of a Typhoon comes the trees that bend to the Typhoon, get de-shaped and are not able to come back to their original position. They continue, to grow, even if in a different pattern. On the other hand trees that did not bend and stood steadfast are uprooted completely and thrown away. They die.
In a customer friendly economy, production schedules may have to change frequently and at short notice. Production facilities may have to be re-fashioned. In fact, the Japanese install many of their machines on rubber pads rather than keep them fixed on concrete. This helps them to quickly change the lay-out of the factory when warranted by the orders they receive. Like in the case of machines, in the matter of organization structure too, re-structuring may be required quite frequently. This necessarily means relocation of people manning the organization structure.
If we do not learn to adjust to powerful changes, we in our individual cases and the company, in our collective capacity, may become outdated and thrown in the dustbins. It is thus a better proposition to change ourselves in time rather than blindly oppose any and every change. We would get less pain and less loss. We might even gain something.
What advance preparations can be done to face changes of any type? We can continuously develop ourselves in a diversified manner. Newer skills, newer crafts, newer competencies mist be learnt to be able to succeed in any field that is in vogue at any given time. We never remain jobless.
Let me give you my own example. There was a huge demand for civil engineers in A.D. 1956 when I passed me B.E. (Civil) examination. I got 16 job offers in 15 days’ time! There was the question of choosing one out of them. 25 years later, the situation had changed considerably. No new projects and no need for civil engineers. Being an employee of the public sector at that time, I did lose my job (To-day I might!). I had no work, however. I found to my surprise that doing nothing was more strenuous than being actively engaged.
I use the time to develop myself in other directions. Did Public Relations work for a while before landing up as a head of the Training Department. I had hardly received ant training myself nut fortunately or because I had been doing a lot of thinking, reading and writing apart from having an innate desire to develop others, I succeeded. I liked this job so much that I decided to settle down permanently in the field of Human Resources Development. I realized that as a civil engineer, I got my kicks by watching structures with which I was professionally involved, grow into useful buildings or a desolate piece of land transform itself into a beautiful township and a sprawling factory. On switching over to H.R.D., the same kicks were now got by watching young boys and girls grow into confident and competent professionals and older people acquiring new insights, new skills and grow in a variety of directions. I found that my vision viz. growth had endured. Only the objects of growth had changed. From lifeless objects to lively people. On retirement, I found myself as a Director of a Management Institute even though I was not an MBA! Here too, I did reasonably well. After resting for a few years, I did a crazy thing I appeared at a competitive examination for admission to the MBA course, passed and completed a 3 year evening program. T- day, I am profitably and usefully engaged in teaching at the local unit of the Productivity Council.
Thus when we find that times have changed and we find ourselves obsolete and redundant, it is time for self-renewal, for self-development into diverse fields so that we can be useful somewhere or the other. For this it is necessary to learn as many skills as possible. We must learn the skills of developing our own selves so that we are totally self-reliant. For self-development, it is essential to have self-awareness as well as learn how to manage our own selves.