Viva la Evolution..! (Part 1)

Dec 1, 2011   //   by Steve Wooding   //   A Slice of Lemon, Articles  //  No Comments

Spiral StaircaseIN SHORT: When it comes to living, we have only three choices: Evolution, Revolution or Stagnation.

(~760 words, approx 4-6 mins to read)

The world we live in today is not the same world as it was yesterday, and it will have changed again by this time tomorrow too. If we try to stay the same while the world changes around us, we stagnate, and slowly but surely get left behind. And resisting change sometimes requires even more energy than keeping up.

We change too. The simplest changes happen moment by moment via the accumulation of time – today I am a day older than I was yesterday, and no matter how much I refuse to believe it, try not to let it happen, or spend on fancy foods and creams, or a nip here and a tuck there, I can’t stop it. I also have a day’s more experience than I did yesterday, and I can no more erase that than I can erase the existence of the last 24 hours. What I do with that experience, however, is up to me.

Other personal changes may be deliberately made because we want to do something other than we currently do, want to have something other than we currently have, or want to be something other than we currently are.

Sometimes those changes are subtle, gentle and slow, like shifts in car design and fashion. Other changes are radical and take only a moment in our awareness, like the 9/11 terror attacks. I’d like us to focus on those two types of change – EVOLUTION and REVOLUTION.

Our word ‘evolution’ has its roots in the Latin verb ‘unroll’. Evolution results in strengthening or tweaking behaviours and other characteristics that work in the environment you’re in or the goal you seek, whilst reducing or culling characteristics or behaviours that no longer work to your advantage. Those changes that have worked are kept, those that haven’t are let go. In it’s purest form, evolution is driven largely by random mutation, without conscious direction or design, and is focused on the survival of a genetic code – the blueprint of a species – not just a single individual.

However, since we are conscious beings, we can actually direct those small changes, keeping those that work for us (whether as individuals or collectively) and take us closer to our goals and desires, and reject those that don’t.

The key point, though, that I’d like  you to focus on is that in essence, EVOLUTION = making small changes what’s already there.

Revolution, however, does something different, hinted at in its Latin origins ‘to turn over’. It means radical step-change, sometimes reversal or the destruction of one complete set of behaviours and the creation of another in its place. Revolution in history has involved people acting to change their environment because the current one wasn’t working to their advantage, usually either social or political rather than simply personal. However, the term ‘environment’ can be thought of as covering all the external conditions you live your life in.

In short, REVOLUTION = replacing what’s there with something different, something new.

Revolutionary change is appealing. Winning the lottery, having surgery to take years off your face or transform your body, getting your ideal job, finding the parter of your dreams, relocating to another country are all examples of revolutionary change, and I’m sure if I was to ask what you’d love to have happen in your life for the coming year, there would be a few revolutionary changes in your list of answers.

Revolution holds the hidden promise that things can suddenly be different, instantaneously better, with only a short burst of concentrated effort.

But this is a lie…

You see, revolutionary change can only succeed well when two critical conditions are met:

  1. The change in behaviour is carefully planned, and that plan includes how to support and maintain the change until it sets in fully.
  2. The environment impacted by the change has to change (or be changed) in a revolutionary way too.

When one or both of these conditions aren’t met, revolutionary change quickly fails. For example, we’ve all heard stories of new-years resolutions to get fit and healthy, go to the gym three times a week and change diet, but which never lasted more than a few weeks because the changes in behaviour weren’t really thought through or supported, and they didn’t change their environment, e.g. their working hours, family routine etc.

Evolutionary change is usually much more successful because of two simple facts that often scupper our attempts at revolution:

  1. Our behaviour carries momentum.
  2. The environment (including other people) is resistant.

And next time (next week in fact!) I’ll reveal exactly what I mean with those physic-ey metaphors!

Until then,


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