It’s fascinating to think how change happens. All the ways we’re consciously or subconsciously acting that, over time, become patterns of behaviour we barely even recognise as a choice. We’re so habitual: all that we do or have seen done a certain way drifting, perhaps unexamined, into our own way of being.
Thinking of life as accumulated actions, it’s amazing to imagine the inertia of all we’ve picked up over the years. The way all that comes together into ‘how we do things’ and, often, ‘who we are’. Lessons from youth and those around us becoming this unique conglomeration of disparate actions, beliefs and attitudes.
And, really, who’s examined all the things they do? All the words, gestures and assumptions. The implications of a billion unspoken choices. Is there reason behind it all? Was there ever? And, ultimately, does it matter how we’re going about things?
It’s apparently something we just pass on – families handing on habits or traditions; teachers imparting their version of wisdom; society setting its examples through media, culture and everyday life. Life seems to be the human community, in its various guises, showing others the way to be (Notes One). Directly or indirectly, intentionally or inadvertently, wisely or thoughtlessly setting all these standards.
There’s clearly this social side to life: living within a community of peers, we either go along with or stand against things. In so many subtle ways we affirm, judge, praise, criticise, condemn, shame or encourage one another. It’s a powerful social tool for regulating behaviour; many perhaps hesitating to question what they might’ve picked up this way.
This being the case, can we ever just wake up and do differently? There’ll be resistance. In many ways, the world expects something from us; often, that we stay the same. Predictable, reliable people who can be trusted to act a given way. Not to say there’s no value in consistency, but where’s the room for growth?
It’s just interesting. As, really, whose ideas are perfect? Where do all the seemingly insignificant things we’ve picked up during the course of life come from? All these statements and interpretations of life’s meaning essentially become the idea we have of life and how to live it (Notes Two); yet what is this cobbled-together picture and does it make sense as a whole?
And, if we’re to admit that big chunks of this might be poorly thought-out theories or distorted messages from others’ youth, education, thought or experience, where does that leave us? Should we insist upon it? Do we hold others back from questioning or changing, given how pulling at even one thread admits to the notion of more being mistaken? Does the watchful commentary of others hold us back?
Because, truly, anything we do in life has to be navigated socially. Collective habits can serve as powerful deterrents or incentives. And, personally or systemically, if things have to shift then that surely involves some process of reflection, adjustment, and the tolerance of allowing people to change?
Notes and References:
Note 1: What you’re left with
Note 1: Old meets new, sharing insight
Note 1: Able to see what matters?
Note 1: The way to be
Note 2: One thing leads to another
Note 2: Do we need meaning?
Note 2: Culture as what we relate to
Note 2: Making adjustments
Another post that considered progress and the idea of moving forward was Problems & the thought that created them.