The only thing that is unchangeable is the fact that everything changes. It is certain someone said this long before now. Still, change remains either an illusion or a threat.
The most oft quote is that change is hard. I wonder if anyone bothered to tell that to the butterfly. Worse, what if all of the animal kingdom stood over the caterpillar continuously chanting, “Change is hard.”
Further imagine how awful it would be if all the babies in the nursery would propagate a whisper campaign to their fellow diaper wearers, “Change is hard.” There are already too many babies who squirm, turning a necessary act of hygiene into a fight of cattle wrestling.
Therefore, I propose an alternative. While in pediatric practice, I offered to parents a lesson about children. The question to every mom or dad was: “What is the difference between an adult and a child?” The answer: “growth and development.”
Unlike the static physical adult phase of our mortal existence, children grow taller and bigger, but they also develop. Over time they become stronger, faster and more mature. Their minds follow the same trajectory. Infants don’t walk; most 1-year-olds at least are trying. Newborns cry; 3-year-olds can better express their needs and wants through language. We often coach a whining child to “use your words.”
They develop from babies who are totally dependent on parents for their existence to teenagers who are dependent more on a parent for their subsistence. If the proper development continues, eventually the need for assistance will subside.
Growth and development then becomes the answer to everything. What is the average rainfall of the Amazon River Basin? Growth and development. What is the Emancipation Proclamation? Growth and development. What is the most important lesson to learn in parenting? Growth and development.
Anyone can make up their own question, but the correct answer will be growth and development. The reason for its correctness is that it reflects the realities of a complex ever-evolving expanding universe. Every time we learn something new we are growing and developing.
Our amazing brains never stop growing and developing. Neuroplasticity is the power of even the oldest bundle of neurons to grow new connections, grow new blood vessels to nurture the synapsis and also grow more support cells to sustain the learning.
This change of growth in the brain permits new ideas to emerge from a seed of intuition or a creative impulse. It says that it is counter to the nature of things to have old people sit around doing nothing. Giving purpose to life fulfills the destiny of our creation. It is one reason why some people say that retirement is deadly.
Waking up with nothing to do is more fatal than many cancers.
Therefore, it is critical to erase “change” and rewrite growth and development into all human endeavors, business, education or even government.
To the moan in organizations of “change is hard,” the response should not be a dismissal to the concern but creation of a culture of growth and development. Growth and development is who we are. It is universal. Growth and development is steady and slow, not a revolution every minute. There is a natural flow of events. Failed leaders often are those that come into a position of authority and start yelling at the helmsman, “left full rudder, reverse engines” without knowing the crew, the ship or even the direction of the wind.
In any setting when people say “change is hard,” it is a code for “I am nervous; I am afraid.” Taking from the growth and development playbook, leaders should create the emotional safety analogous to the security of a chrysalis and teach the glorious beauty of a butterfly and the splendor of flight.
Growth and development is not a business fad or gamesmanship; it’s life.
Remember, the answer to change is growth and development.
Joseph Cramer, M.D., is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a practicing pediatrician for 30 years and an adjunct professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah. He can be reached at [email protected].