There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it is going to be a butterfly. — Buckminster Fuller
They don’t think about falling… they don’t care about their edges… they have no interest in making turns… and they have no taste for making pizza out of their french fries.
I’m talking about the young kids I see every day at the Rocky Mountain ski resort where I work.
These kids tuck and go, ski tips pointed straight down the hill… falling doesn’t concern them. The only aspect of gravity that they care about is their acceleration down the hill. “How fast can gravity pull me down this slick slope?”
It’s incredible to watch these kids fly, to glide past other mountain guests, with no effort and no concern.
Even more incredible is seeing how kids just a few years older perform.
They too heavily on their edges and fall. They make slow, awkward turns. And their skis seems to constantly be in the pizza conformation, the v-shape used to slow and stop a skier.
Why is there such a difference?
My theory is this: the older kids have taken more falls.
They know how falling feels (generally not good). And they know that they have taken more falls when moving faster.
This is an acquired fear.
Never mind that as these kids get older, they have developed physically. This means more strength and more control. And as they have accumulated more hours of practice, they have further developed their skills. It makes sense that they could expect fewer falls, doesn’t it?
But they can’t get past that acquired fear. They have learned to associate a conditioned stimulus—going fast—with a fearsome, unconditioned stimulus—the pain (physical and mental) of falling.
It’s understandable to be fearsome of pain. But does it make sense to associate pain with speed when you are capable of avoiding falls at speed?
For the past few weeks I’ve been standing outside my lift shack and thinking, “It’s a shame these kids can’t dissociate speed from pain… that they can’t inhibit their acquired fear.”
But one day I accidentally turned the lens on myself…
It turns out I have some acquired fears of my own. In fact, it’s probably a safe assumption that we all have acquired fears… fears that aren’t logical.
So what is the best course of action when we recognize these fears? Well, there has actually been some research done on this… and the conclusion isn’t the easiest to hear.
The best way to overcome these acquired fears is to experience the conditioned stimulus (going fast in the case of the young skiers) without experiencing the fearsome, unconditioned stimulus (the pain of falling).
We must present ourselves with the conditioned stimulus without experiencing the unconditioned stimulus until we dissociate the two.
For the older kids, this means skiing fast—without falling—until they realize that going fast doesn’t necessarily mean they will fall.
Simple enough, right?
Sure… apart from that one hitch: facing the fear for the first time.
This is definitely the hardest part… I know… I’ve been working on it. But just remember that every time you encounter the conditioned stimulus, it becomes easier to confront… and science says, eventually, there won’t be a confrontation, just a new, fearless, association.
I don’t like the idea of the New Year’s Resolution.
Frankly, I think the whole notion is counterproductive. And a study headed by Richard Wiseman of the UK justifies this claim. In 2007, a group of over 3000 people were tracked, as well as the progress toward their goal. Fifty-two percent of the cohort were confident they would achieve their New Year’s Resolution; at the end of the year, 88% had failed.
An 88% chance of failure? Wouldn’t it be fair to assume that this number should be lower? Why wouldn’t there be more success among people who have 365 days to achieve a set goal?
I find the New Year’s Resolution is a fad more than anything. Social norms state we should all celebrate the new year by having a goal we can talk about on New Year’s Eve. But should the change of the calendar really be our motivation? Can a change in the calendar be motivation enough? Apparently not … for 88% of us, at least.
That’s where my problem with this tradition lies. Why do we need a specific day on which we can decide, “I want to change myself”? Why is January 1st any better than March 10th … or July 17th … or August 7th … or December 26th?
Why can’t we motivate ourselves on any random day instead of letting the changing of the year motivate us? This is why the failure rate is so high—outsourcing our motivation makes failure inevitable. If you have a real goal in mind, you’ll go for it, hell or high water … regardless of the date on your Pug-A-Day calendar.
So if you must have a New Year’s Resolution, let it be this: over the next year make several New You Resolutions. If you want to change, if you want to improve yourself, start now. Whenever the fancy strikes you, go for it … and certainly don’t wait until next year to start striving toward your goal.
Now, with that rant out of my system … ¡Feliz Año Nuevo! (I’ve been working on my Spanish … and it’s not even January 1st yet!)
You must welcome change as the rule but not as your ruler. — Denis Waitley
Change … that’s the key.
I sat amidst some ruins — adjacent to the Inca trail —looking out over Machu Picchu, and hoping for a change. The cool stones pressed against my back provided some relief from the hot sun as my shade continued to shrink. My camera stood on the wall above me, with a bird’s-eye view. I was creating a time-lapse of the scenery and though the view was incredible, I didn’t have high hopes for the time-lapse — there just wasn’t enough change. The sun was too bright, the clouds moving too slowly. There was no change, the element that drives the time-lapse — if nothing in the frame changes, you’re just staring at a picture …
It occurred to me that life is the same. Our memory isn’t perfect, so all we’re left with at the end of our life is just single frames … single frames aligned in a sequence, just like a time-lapse. Think of looking back over your life though. If the single frames are all the same, wouldn’t you get bored with the video?
Change is what makes things interesting. Change is dynamic … Change is different … Change encourages growth … Change is adventurous … Change adds more interesting frames to our time-lapse.
This isn’t to say we should – or have to – make drastic changes. The whole appeal of time-lapse is seeing subtle changes sped up, presented to us more obviously, more noticeable. So if you think you can’t change, you’re wrong. A gradual change today might look like an immense change 20 years from now.
It’s all about your perspective and what you want your personal time-lapse to look like. So what kind of frames do you want to see in your time-lapse?
Time is a measure of change — that’s all it is. Time doesn’t exist in a vacuum. If there’s nothing there — nothing changing — time stops. There is no time. How do you measure it? You can only measure it by change. So if nothing changes there is no time. And if a lot changes, time slows down… That’s the secret of experience… If you have a life full of change, full of novelty, full of interesting things, full of risk — because those things don’t come without risk — you live longer. I don’t care if you die when you’re 27, you live longer than the person who gets up and goes to work and puts in their 70 or 80 years and then croaks. You’ve lived longer. Not only more interesting, not only better, but actually longer, because time stretches for you. — Dr. Christopher Ryan (Tangentially Speaking ep. 79)
We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement. When we are no longer able to change a situation… we are challenged to change ourselves. — Viktor E. Frankl