5 Stabilizers to Stay Sane And Functional In Today's Instability
Perhaps it’s just me. I doubt it though. Life feels unstable these days. Coping with it is taking more effort and focus than I can remember it taking in years past.
I try to reflect on life when it felt more stable. I must admit to coming up short as I scan the memory banks in search of even a modicum of stability.
The simple fact is everything is changing all the time. When seen within the scope of one lifetime the perspective, while personal, is woefully insignificant. We must understand the big picture of change and instability to truly grasp what is happening today.
Peter Russell has long been a favorite author of mine. His thoughts on instability and the speed of change shared in his book Waking Up in Time are well worth reading. He uses a unique analogy to describe the increasing pace of change. To make a very long story short, let me share the highlights:
Imagine a 108-storey building:
- Street level is the formation of our planet.
- Simple cells develop by the 25th floor.
- Complex cells capable of sexual reproduction appear at the 70th floor.
- Fish crawl out of the sea at 99.
- Dinosaurs reign from floors 104 –107.
- Mammals arrive on the 108th floor.
- Things really speed up when humans walk upright a few inches from the top of the 108th floor.
- The Renaissance happens in the last layer of paint on the roof.
- The current Information Revolution is no more than a microscopic layer on top, almost too thin to measure.
Peter Diamandis, engineer, physician and entrepreneur shares a few insights into the exponential pace of technology over just the past few decades:
- The cost of processing power, memory and networks has dropped 1 billion fold over the past 5 decades.
- Renewable energy costs have dropped 1 thousand times over the past 3 decades and continues to fall rapidly.
- Genome sequencing costs have become 1 million times cheaper over the past 2 decades
Clearly, while it took a while for things to get going, the pace of instability and change is speeding up far beyond my insignificant world. There are no signs things will slow down anytime soon.
Many significant destabilizers surround us at this immediate moment in time:
- The increasing impact of climate change.
- A profound lack of genuine leadership in key roles around the world.
- Constant noise from all forms of media.
- The escalating impact technology has on our lives.
I find myself relying more heavily on a handful of mini-stabilizers as a way of staying sane and somewhat functional in these unstable times:
1. Keep Your Eye on the Ball - First you must determine what the ball is and then keep it in focus.
The ball is the one or two things so important in your life that if you lost absolutely everything else but these one or two things, your life would remain essentially unchanged.
It is unlikely the ball is about money, work, career or organizations. It is much more likely to be about treasured relationships, health, home and happiness.
2. Shorten Your Planning Horizons – While it is nice to have a long-term plan along with goals for your life and career, things rarely work out according to the plan.
Concern your self with what is in front of you right now. Focus on what you need or want to get done by the end of the day, or perhaps by the end of the week. Leave the longer term to sort itself out.
Remember the wise words of Hugh Prather: “Our anxiety doesn’t come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.”
3. Remember Your Sense of Humor – Seek out opportunities to laugh – at yourself, your current situation, the world around you.
Look under the Comedy section when you are searching for a movie online. Find clips of your favorite comedians. Read books by people who have a unique and hilarious view of the world.
4. Recommit Yourself to Your Current Job, For Now – There is a very simple question that will determine if you are in the right job for you – Would you apply for your current job? If the answer is yes, great.
But if the answer is no, then why are you still there? Don’t worry about a career plan for the rest of your life. Simply decide if the place you are working now is the place where you want to apply your skills, talents, and passions.
Good people can always find good work. Doing work that is bad for you is far too draining and defeating, even over the short term.
5. Remember the Basics – Eat good food, get a bit of exercise and some fresh air, spend time with people you love and get a good night sleep. Never forget life is too short to drink cheap wine.
When you have those things in place, everything else will work out. When they aren’t in place, dealing with the day-to-day challenges of todays unstable environment become almost impossible.