The (truth about) fear of change
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.
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! 😉