change is eternal

The Way Things Are Won’t Last Forever

The wheel of fortune in the sky keeps on turning… Photo: SeM/Universal Images Group via Getty

I enjoyed this sweet story about life changes on the TED Ideas blog today. It’s about how humans naturally assume that the way things currently are will probably last forever, even if we rationally know they won’t. It’s also about how hard it is to meaningfully envision future change.

It’s easier to see the past, as Neil Pasricha writes (the story is an excerpt from his new book). We can look back and see how we’ve transformed, and we can appreciate the strange and unexpected twists our lives have taken, but we can’t really picture these things happening in the future. He refers to a 2013 study in which participants uniformly describe having changed significantly over the past decade, but project that they’ll stay mostly the same for the coming decade. He likens this to a staircase that we can look back on but that we have a hard time looking up toward. It’s hard to leave room in the imagination for all the steps that are (hopefully) ahead.

I had a moment reading the story when I thought, You know what, okay, my own life has been on a strange but upward trajectory. Even though it has looked a little weird, even if I’ve made some seemingly unconventional choices, I still moved forward. Right?

“When you’re stewing in the shock of failure and loss,” Pasricha writes, “when you’re convinced you’re stuck … just remember: There’s a staircase you’re not seeing.”

I like the staircase visual, but there’s also an umbrella visual that I like. I think of accumulating all my past moments under the umbrella of this current moment. Wherever I’ve been, I’ve brought with me here.

The Way Things Are Won’t Last Forever