This I Believe

Jeffrey - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Entered on January 4, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: change

I Believe People Eventually Do What Works

I believe that people do what works for them. I recognize, however, that grasping necessary change can be painful. I believe that while people are loathe to change something that seems to work, if they see a better way, eventually they will come around. We are often belief-bound, content and proud of our choices because we are operating based on a cultural understanding of what a person should and can do and what works in that pursuit.

The variety of human experience explains the diversity in the way humans pursue their lives and why traditions and thinking can change so slowly. People fight change in ways that, when you look back on them, seem ridiculous. When it first became available, my father maintained he didn’t need air conditioning in his car because it was, in his mind, useful for only a couple of hot days a year, and operating the air conditioner used too much gas. Today you only have to attempt to buy a car without air-conditioning to realize how the technology and our priorities have changed. As the personal computer became a part of the business scene, many of my peers didn’t bother learning how to use one. It is no mystery why they were the first to go when the downsizing began in the eighties and those skills became critical.

Senator Barak Obama recently said that the last two presidential campaigns were about issues that were raised in the sixties. He is right, and it shows how reluctant we can be to move on. While racism and questions about a woman’s rights rage in the hearts of some, a younger generation has not only accepted integration and equality, they have embraced them.

Part of this reluctance to change is based in the reluctance to admit we’ve been wrong. Another aspect is fear of anything new. Why give up the time-proven way for something that might not last, hold up to pressure, or be as good?

While it’s true that there are tradeoffs in almost any decision we make, evolution rather than revolution usually prevails. The projected payoffs in productivity that the computer promised didn’t happen until the vast majority of the production workers began to use them. The Internet didn’t have the value it has today until the average person had access, the right equipment, and the knowledge of how to use it. Change can be slow, and in fact it can be downright frustrating for those who see the value in something early on, but ultimately the thing that changes people’s minds is seeing something work for others.

Changing the paradigm or the belief system can take years. Often we go through very painful times when we let our emotions rather than common sense rule our actions. But I believe that given the time and the information, people ultimately do that thing that works best.