Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Predicting Change

A study recently came out that found that we are not very good at predicting how our beliefs may change in the future. We don’t have much difficulty reflecting on the changes that have occurred in us to date, but our imagination fails us when it comes to anticipating our capacity for future change. We seem to assume that we have done all the changing we are going to do and project the status quo forward. I have always had difficulty with those interview questions about what I anticipate doing five years from now. I’d like to believe it is because of my insight into how much things can change rather than a failure of imagination.

I’ve been thinking of changes lately as this is my taking stock time of year. When I looked back over the past several years, I noted an interesting development. Each year I have developed a new skill that I built on in subsequent years. Each of those firsts escalated and took me in a new direction that I could not have easily foreseen. Now those skills have become more second nature and less stress producing then that first step into the unknown. It took actively practicing them and soon I could make bigger leaps.

For example, the first year I left my job I took on a public speaking project, not without some trepidation. In subsequent years I did four or five talks a year until this year I did four in one weekend and a total approaching twenty. Oddly it didn’t seem like a stretch. By taking the first step and then practicing the skill, I found it wasn’t that big of a leap to amplify it. As I became more at ease, I also found the ability to find the story that makes a talk interesting. Writing this blog is often helpful in that as I use it to think through ideas I often speak about.

In my second year post-job I did my first solo show of a body of my artwork. Since then I’ve completed five series of work and had ten exhibitions of bodies of my work. I learned the details that needed to be considered in a solo show and became more proficient at the necessary skills. Stretching to learn a new skill and practicing it have allowed me to make life changes that would at one time have been overwhelming.

The following year I took an on-line class in developing websites so that I could create websites on ancestral towns. This year I created or revised four sites, including my art/genealogy site and one for my studio building. I refined my earlier efforts which were no longer reflective of my growing capabilities. In subsequent years I moved into securing grants, exhibiting internationally, learning video editing and presenting an artist residency. Each year I took on at least one new first, most often because the need presented itself and I either figured out how to do it or it wasn’t going to happen. It is that toe in the water, that first step that soon becomes our new foundation and moves us into previously unanticipated directions.

Now the study was about beliefs, but when our experience in the world changes, our beliefs about our capabilities and what is accessible also change. I could not have anticipated the changes of the past six years, so it seems reasonable that I can’t anticipate the changes of the next six years. What an exciting prospect! What we can anticipate is change and that we have the capacity to adjust to it. That alone promises an interesting future.


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