TOPAZ Issue 3 / 2002
Understanding of the Template
Template Foundation Dance Team
The Theatre of Japan
Living in times of change
Film Review
Interview with a composer
Handling uncertainty in crisis situation
A Mark of support to the people of America
Book presentation
New approaches to cancer treatment
Art and Design

Living in times of change

W. Starink Almost every article or business brochure you read these days begins with similar words: "We are living in times of major change". But what is actually happening? In this article Wim Starink, a professional trainer, will provide some useful insights that may help you understand better what is going on and how to be more effective in living in these dramatic times. At the end of the article there are ten tips on how to remain on top of things and stay strong and fit.

Throughout previous centuries change and development have mostly been more gradual than in our modern times - whilst there were definite changes, they took place slowly and less obviously. Building a cathedral or a Buddhist monastery would take hundreds of years, and they were designed to stand for centuries. The people who designed and began to build them knew they might never see the finished product. Imagine trying to promote and finance a project like this today!

 Today we seem to be living inside an avalanche of change. Computers, globalisation, a 24-hour economy, telecommunications, cars, airplanes, floating trains, the blending of races and cultures by the melting of borders, the internet, electronic banking, heart surgery, space travel, nuclear power - all appearing in one century! Change is happening so fast that, for example, in the time between buying a new computer and walking from the shop to your car, three new models have come out that are cheaper and faster than the one you have just bought.

We are constantly being bombarded with impressions and new ideas and concepts. How then do we stay mentally stable when everything around us is changing, when values and principles that have been standard for centuries do not seem to be upheld anymore, whilst living in a time when politics do not seem to be able to provide answers to the global problems that we face?

Where to begin?

There is an analogy for the times we are going through at the moment which goes as follows: When a piece of land is left bare, within a fortnight it will become overgrown with small weeds. These are called 'pioneer vegetation' and will clean up and make ready the soil for the next generation of vegetation. They do this by extracting oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur from the air. The next generation of vegetation will not take over from the first in one night, but will gradually replace the weeds by taking their place and their sunlight. Graphically this change looks like this: Graph
Whilst one type of vegetation is diminishing, the other is increasing, slowly replacing the influence of the first vegetation until this has almost completely disappeared.

The human case

A further way to understand these changing times better is in the contrast between silver and gold, and their different natures.

 Gold is found naturally in concentrate, called nuggets, formed over thousands of years and always maintaining its lustre. This can be compared to the time of previous generations, a time of longevity, durability and stability, a time when a 16-year old would begin his working life with the idea that he would be working in one company for the remainder of his career. He would be loyal to the company, and the company would take care of him even after retirement.

Silver, however, is naturally found in veins, is more widely spread and has a tendency to tarnish. This can be likened to the times we are moving into, times of change, and increasing speed and instability. Nowadays young people start their first job with the idea of learning as much as they can for one or two years before moving on.

Companies are restructuring all the time to meet the challenge of an ever-changing market, regularly needing to make large redundancies in order to reduce costs and increase profitability. If we compare the 'Silver' time with the 'Gold' time, we see:

Aspect Gold Silver
Government Central De-centralised
Geographically Local Global
Expectations Stability Change
Structures Hierarchical Networking
Social control High Minimal
Communication Slow and deep Fast and shallow
Speeds Low High
Employability From cradle to grave For a few years
Focus Collectivity Individuality
Family Stable relations Increasing divorce rates

It is obvious to many that the planet and the human race are in a radical process of change across all aspects. The 'gold' influence of stability is decreasing, whilst the 'silver' influence of change can be felt more each day. And this is only the beginning!

What does this demand from us?

Until recent times, life proceeded according to ways and behaviours established over many generations. Religion, tradition and social control prescribed how one was supposed to behave. The old rules and ways no longer seem to apply these days, and all around us standards are falling and disappearing, perhaps waiting to be replaced by new ones. Whereas before security could be found outside oneself (church, job, community), today this security needs to be found inside oneself. It seems as if these times are urging us to look more inside ourselves, where personal religion, spirituality, principles and standards are becoming the means of our stability and sanity. In these times it is increasingly important to determine:

  • what is important in your life?
  • what is it that you excel at and love doing?
  • what do you believe in and find worth fighting for?

These are the gold principles that can help you stay intact when dealing with the demands of the silver times we are living in.

Ten tips that can assist within these frenetic and often chaotic times

  1. Be selective about the information that you take in through radio, TV and newspapers. Everything you see or hear needs to be 'digested' and much of it is far from the truth!
  2. Try not to build up financial debts and only buy things within your means. Financial and other worries use up a lot of energy and limit your freedom to think for yourself.
  3. Mix with people who think and feel the way you do. Read good books and try to form your own perception of what is happening in the world.
  4. Take good care of yourself and the people that are dear to you. Healthy food, regular exercise and good humour will help keep you strong and fit.
  5. Generate as much as you can in areas that you are inspired about. When you're full of life and inspiration there's less room in you for negative thoughts, and this will improve your well-being.
  6. Begin every day with 15 minutes for yourself, in which you think about what you want to be, do and achieve that day, based on what you find important and of value in life. It will help your determination for the rest of the day.
  7. Keep it simple. Things are what they are. The way of the world today tends to make simple things complicated. Remember that the truth is always simple and deep, and try to work things out for yourself.
  8. Remember that there are always others who are less fortunate than you, and try to help others where you can. Life is richer for this and it will strengthen your self-esteem.
  9. Work out what you don't want in your life, what you don't want to happen to you and what you don't want to support, and try to live your life accordingly.
  10. You alone are accountable for your life. Don't let others dictate what you should do, and don't blame others for what is happening to you.

 We are living in extraordinary times, where more is possible than ever before. It may seem on occasions as if everything that previously could be relied upon is breaking down - and it is. However, we have the opportunity to build a new world together and a new way of life, providing, that is, that we are each prepared to change to meet the requirements of these new times.

Wim Starink is a trainer of communication skills, conflict management, stress management and leadership development. He combines his experience in business with his own researches on personal development to help people cope with the pressures of these times and improve their personal effectiveness.

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