Home > General > The (truth about) fear of change

The (truth about) fear of change

25% of my contacts on Linkedin have started in a new job last year

Just over a year ago, on January 24, 2010, I posted the big news to my family and friends — I am starting a blog! Haven’t yet figured out what it was going to be exactly about, but I was convinced it would be another New Year’s resolution that will stay out of the drawer for few months only — before it would go back to the pile of other ideas that for some reason people usually deliberate around the turn of the new year and never truly take the effort to follow up on them. Still, I thought, it would be fun to try — little did I know how much so!

2010 was a year of many changes for me. I won’t bother you with listing what has happened, as that is not the point of my article — besides, I already covered some of the changes and ideas I started working on in previous posts that I’ll leave it to new readers to hunt them down in the archive if they dare! 😉

The thing that interests me at the moment and I want to look at in this article is change itself!

What relationship change has with our fears and happy moments? Why do we (not) change? Is it true that more people fear change than embrace it?

These are questions that I have been deliberating lately, unfortunately without making progress on finding the answers! 😦

Being a geek for data, I decided to look into some numbers and after a while I ran into a great little service from Google Labs — Ngrams — which allows one to search for words through a vast archive of books and articles going back in time as far as 1600 or so. You can see the results for one of my searches below.

Are we facing a change in trend leading again to fear of change?

According to Google, there has been a steady upward trend for the word change — as it seems to appear in more and more books and articles all through the 19th and most of 20th century, while at the same time there has been a clear downward trend for words like war & peace or fear & happiness — with the understandable peaks in the appearance of the words war and peace around the World Wars, of course.

It is impossible to draw hard conclusions from this, of course, but it is still tempting to think that people are showing increased interest in making changes in various aspects of their lives. In particular, it seems that people are writing about change in many other contexts but war & peace or fear & happiness. So much for the myth of fear of change, right?

I certainly thought so when I got the update from Linkedin suggesting that 474 of my contacts there have started working on new jobs in the last year, before I tried to put that number in context.

While 474 may appear like a big number, it is still only about 25% of my network and it is hardly representative of the society at large, given that Linkedin is a social network focusing on business professionals who are readily using it to start businesses, find new jobs, etc. I suspect the number of people that have changed jobs in a year in a country like Canada or the US is far smaller.

I have been living with change for the past year and very much hope to continue to do so in my lifetime — change is the only way I learn and learning after all is my passion. Which is why I am not happy with the story the numbers from Linkedin and Ngrams are telling.

You must have noticed that the upward trend in the use of the word change in books ends around 1970 and plateaus until 2000 when it seems to turn down rapidly with the start of the new millenia. At the same time, after a steady downward trend for 200 years, we seem to start to write more and more about war and fear in the past 8-10 years!

I am an eternal optimist and love the fact that by embracing change in my live I am constantly building many new relationships and friendships with people I had no chance to meet if I stayed paralyzed in fear of change. Still, it is disheartening to see signs of entering a new era of increased fear of change and I hope my analysis will turn to have been flawed.

Here is to a hope 2011 will not only be a better year of change than 2010, but also a year of empowerment — a year in which many of us will look around and find someone to help pursue their dream, by instilling a relationship full with trust and respect and encouraging them to go after their passions. By doing so, we may be able to turn the tide again from fear to hope!

Of course, having fun doesn’t hurt, either! 😉

To empower is to let them do it, even if things get messy;-)

Of course, empowering them comes with risks;-)

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  1. January 30, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    So cute!!!!!!! The girls are adorable Kima.. and by drawing on your face, they have made sure you will not get lost and are very much a part of their family.. Ha ha.. It must have been so much fun!! 🙂
    And 25% of your Linked in Contacts makes for 474!! Gosh, darn it – You are connected to half of the people on Linked in.. j/k 😉
    Nice analysis you got us here – in the same context, I wonder where HOPE ranks.. after all, without hope, there is no drive for change.. ?!?!

    • January 31, 2011 at 12:49 am

      Thx Rachana!

      Honestly, after running into Dr. Gabor Mate and his book Hold On to Your Kids — Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers I am reflecting back on my nature vs. nurture thoughts I put on this blog last year and thinking hard about my role in my kids’ life. Would love to read the book, but even now, I am getting convinced that the only long term goal that parents should have with kids is to keep the love (the trusting and protective kind) and the attachment going. Everything else is quite unimportant!

      If face painting and having fun is the solution to that, I would gladly do it every minute we’re together 😉

      Funny you should mention hope. I thought happiness would be more interesting to compare instead of hope in my post above, but I noticed something peculiar when plotting together fear, happiness and hope

      The first thing I noticed is that hope and happiness are almost perfectly correlated, except we like to write more about hope than happiness and this has been consistently going through the years, despite the word inflation.

      The other thing I noticed is that early in 1800s we were writing about fear and happiness almost equally, while hope was more prominent, while lately fear is up there with hope. Effectively, considering the word inflation, fear has becoming more and more prominent in the written literature of our time, which makes me quite sad 😦

      On a positive note, it looks like hope is accelerating faster than fear (and happiness) in the past 8-10 years.

      P.S. I hope your health is improving and February will not trouble you as much as January!

  2. January 26, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Grreat post!

  3. January 26, 2011 at 6:19 am

    That last picture made my day.

    I love the idea of turning fear into hope, and in helping people see the positive power of change.

    I do find it kind of sad that the word peace is in steady decline, however are these numbers adjusted for information inflation? Ie, we have more total information now, more books being published, etc… are these numbers absolute values or adjusted for inflation?

    • January 26, 2011 at 10:18 pm

      Haha … I even got to go out our apartment to lend a hammer to a friend like this and caused few smiles in the hall 😉

      I thought about the trend for the word peace too, but I noticed the correlation with war and thought that it is to be expected they go hand in hand?! It does look like the upward trend on the word peace in the past 8-10 years is accelerating faster than war, though.

      Yes, it is accounting for inflation by the fact it shows % of occurrences of the given word among all words found in all books scanned & published in a given year. There are some subtleties when comparing words vs. phrases, though, so I suggest you check http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/info and http://www.culturomics.org/Resources/A-users-guide-to-culturomics

      The interesting part about Ngrams is that at the moment it searches through over 5.2 million books: ~4% of all books ever published! It is already statistically significant for trying to find correlations that may mean something.

      Of course, interpreting the data is science in itself, but can be fun too 😉 Check this comparison between homeschooling & unschooling,for example: http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/graph?content=homeschooling,unschooling&year_start=1950&year_end=2008&corpus=0&smoothing=3

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