Ideas are hard to sell because they change the order of things. And the more your ideas will be innovative, the more they will challenge habits and demand more effort and teaching to generate support. The ability to accept change often fuels the clash between the old and the new. But the defense of a generation gap is not enough to explain the hesitations and motivations that change provokes in us all. We are constantly alternating between wanting and mistrusting, between progressive enthusiasm and cautious conservatism. However, it appears that this hemming and hawing is only the visible part of a constant conflict occurring in our brains.
Indeed, our brain is the result of millions of years of evolution and today it has two distinct separate zones reflecting the stages of our development. It turns out that the most contemporary part of our brain, which is the origin of our “human intelligence” is in open conflict with its most primitive part. It is indeed a generational conflict, but between modes of our brain! According to which part is in control, we speak respectively of adaptive governance (pre-frontal zone) or automatic (reptilian and limbic zone) mode. As its name suggests, the automatic mode, when faced with a given situation, tends to apply a set programs that have been previously selected and saved. This method of governance is both very fast and very rigid. And given an unprecedented and complex situation, where this mode is not at all appropriate, it tends to want to keep the upper hand. This conflict between the adaptive and automatic modes is far from trivial because it is the source of stress, that we all feel, and that causes so much trouble!
Our propensity for change is thus less related to our age as it is to our ability to quickly call up our pre-frontal adaptive governance mode. Because when it is fully in control, it is the source of our curiosity for new things, our ability to accept unexpected or unpleasant situations, to nuance and to put things into perspective. It is also the seat of our indispensable logical thought process and the development of our personal opinions.
Understanding stress as an internal alarm system inviting us to change our mental mode is an immeasurable source of performance and serenity. The stakes are high, because the world we live in is changing all the time. And even if change management is now synonymous with painful reorganization, it is undeniable that to make our value systems endure, we must be willing to change to adapt them to the constantly moving world.
* This understanding of stress and the handling of mental modes come from the neurocognitive and behavioural approach.