I’ve been reading Brain Rules by John Medina. I’m enjoying the book quite a bit, he presents some pretty complex information but with language that is simple and amusing. For me, to combine humor, good writing, and science – well, I’m in heaven.
I want to dig in a little to something in his Chapter 2 on Survival. Medina is discussing how a relatively small founding population for our species (perhaps no more than 2,000 individuals) could have burgeoned into the species that is currently flooding the world over. He says, “You give up on stability. You don’t try to beat back changes. You begin not to care about consistency within a given habitat because such consistency isn’t an option. You adapt to variation itself.” (emphasis mine).
Adaptation to change is our real superpower. We see this in our personal lives. Those of us who are able to adapt easily and smoothly to the reality of change are the ones who flourish. Those of us who fight change are the ones who struggle. Most of us have fluctuating levels of each.
Our culture seems to be moving in a direction that encourages more adaptability on the personal level. There are movements that promote mindfulness, gratitude, and altruism – all of which are based on being aware of and responsive to the ebbs and flows of our lives.
Too much of the business, educational, and political world is lagging behind. From policies to hierarchies to work flow, the mantra of “we’ve always done it this way” is chanted on a daily basis. Clinging to what’s worked in the past for fear of how changes will impact the future is oh so human. What seems to be lacking is imagination.
Our ability to imagine is another survival skill discussed in this chapter. We can imagine what another person is thinking or feeling, what their motivations might be. This ability means that we can form alliances with others – to hunt a mastodon or to create new policies on immigration – for mutual benefit. Our ability to imagine helps us to create new possible futures.
I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments about adaptation to change and imagining the future.
You might also enjoy these books that have been valuable to me: