My parents are in the process of moving from their house of 34 years. This is a big change and I can’t imagine how difficult this is, both physically and emotionally. Overcoming the inertia of 34 years feels to me like a completely insurmountable challenge and all I can do is try to be supportive. But it starts me thinking about behaviours and the nature of people. My parents have a house they built with their own hands 34 years ago and the 57 year old family cottage inherited from my grandparents. My brother tore down the house he bought almost 10 years ago and has built a new house on that site that, frankly, he’ll probably die in. For them, it seems to me, familiarity and consistency are key. For me, the key is change.
Now don’t get me wrong I hate it when people move my stuff. I like things to be where I left them. I have my rituals and my habits. But at my core, I need change. I get excited by throwing myself into new things. I thrive on being forced to learn something new. As a result, I’m a quick study. It never takes me very long to begin to understand the nature of a situation whether that’s a business, a technology, a culture or a relationship. And no matter where I end up, I always try to put it down better than I picked it up. I’ve renoed all my houses, even the rentals (there’s that change again). I’ve introduced change at a core level in every one of my clients. I often hold dissenting opinions in order to have a more thorough conversation. And I’m always teaching, if nothing else, how to see all possibilities. If I’m not learning, changing, growing, I’m bored. And me bored is a bad thing. I disengage, I have little motivation, and quality suffers. So I’ve learned about myself that I need to shake things up on a regular basis.
The downside of being addicted to change is that I never develop depth in anything I do. I am the consumate generalist. I can do many many things, but nothing extremely well. I have never become a specialist in any given technique, skill or technology. I’ve never liked packaged, repeatable solutions because they ignore the infinite variability of problems. I don’t think I will ever be a Master of anything, because I can’t stay focused that long. The beauty of familiarity and consistency is that you develop an attunement to the task at hand. You develop skills and habits that make it easy for you to solve problems because you’ve seen so many like them. I envy those people. But I can’t make myself do the same thing for any length of time so as to emulate them.
I’ve embraced my ephemeral nature. I recognize the limitations that puts on me both personally and professionally. I struggle with never being “good enough”. But I embrace it. I find ways to focus that nature to my benefit (like short term consulting gigs). I balance my nature for change with the kids’ need for stability. I tolerate (and sometimes covet) my families stable nature. As my folks move through the biggest change they’ve had to deal with in a long time, all I can do is share with them my skills for handling and accepting change. Animum debes mutare, non caelum.