Important Changes Can’t Be Undone.


Undo KeyI admit it…I am not sure who some of my Facebook friends are, or where they came from. There must be some connection, some reason I either offered them a friend request, or accepted one that was sent my way. It’s easy enough to unfriend them; but then again, why bother? Our relationship isn’t that important to either of us.

Just like unknown “friends” on Facebook, little changes can be easily undone. If you fell in love with the paint chip in the store but hate the way the living room looks now that you have painted it, you can redo it. If you felt good about the way the new suit looked on you in the dressing room but saw it differently once you got home, you can return it. Some car dealerships are now offering exchange and/or return options for new car purchases.

But, important changes can’t be undone.

Getting divorced is not the same as never having been married. Obtaining a new job is not the same as never having held the current one. Moving to the city (or the country) is not the same as never having lived in the country (or the city). The examples are endless. Whether the change was personal (e.g. returning to work after the birth of a child or a serious illness), organizational (e.g. withdrawing a new product from the market after its launch as a result of quality control problems), or social (e.g. significant movement toward equal rights)…you can’t undo the change.

You can’t undo it because people have experienced it. you can’t undo it because people have been changed by it. You can’t undo it because it has been part of the way people now think/see/behave in the world, or part of how they now think/see/behave toward you, or part of how you now think/see/behave.

Ultimately, as I have written elsewhere, all change is personal. And when people are personally changed you can’t undo it. Whether mother or father, if you have taken time off of work for the birth of your child, you are returning to work with a different perspective. If you are the business that launched–and withdrew–a faulty product, the marketplace sees you differently. If you have experienced being treated fairly after a lifetime of judgment and discrimination, you are not going to willingly relinquish fair treatment.

Important changes can’t be undone. For this reason, some people refuse to make them in the first place. They hold onto the old ways, the old beliefs, the old technologies.

While millions of photographs are taken on cellphones around the world each day, there remain photographers with large-format cameras and film, and photographers who are making albumen and cyanotype prints. Though their work is often beautiful and distinctive, cellphone cameras will be replaced by a future generation technology, not by a return to film.

The Amish shun technology and modern conveniences. They continue to travel in horse and buggy, sharing the roads with today’s cars and trucks. It is likely that in the not-to-distant future they will be sharing the road with driverless vehicles; today’s cars and trucks will not be replaced by horse and buggy.

Last week I wrote that “every change has an expiration date.” And when changes expire, they are not replaced by that which came before, but by something newer, something different.

Important changes will expire; they can’t be undone.

It was the thinking of the past that fostered today’s changes…thinking that challenged the status quo, that sought creative and innovative solutions to the problems and the opportunities being faced then. Every solution, every innovation, every change, brings with it new problems. Albert Einstein is quoted as having said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Nor can we solve them by returning to the thinking of the past. Important changes cannot be undone.

If important change can’t be undone, what is the answer to today’s challenges in our lives?

First, don’t act/react impulsively.

Explore; consider options; “think outside the box;” ask those who think differently than you for their perspective, and listen with an open mind.

Learn from the past. There are reasons that change happened back then. Many of the factors that made things work–that sustained the status quo–back then are no longer in place.

There were mistakes that were made along the way. Learn from them; don’t repeat them.

Avoid “change for change sake.” if there is no other reason than to make change, then you are squandering your capacity for change when you may well need that capacity for unforeseen changes that are just around the corner.

Recognize that our memories of the past will often “let go of the bad” and “reinforce the good.” The “good old days” may be old, but it is doubtful that they were as good as they are remembered…and if they were as good for us, it is likely that they were less-than-good for others who are in a better place today.

Consider the anchors that keep you tied to the past. Are there ones that you need to let go of, others that you need to connect to differently to meet today’s challenges?

Have you ever undone an important change (or seen one undone)? How? If important changes can’t be undone, what other things can you recommend regarding how we address today’s challenges? Comment below.


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