Monday, January 19, 2004

The Thief in the Night

The Thief in the Night

As we grow older most of us would find it more difficult to learn a new skill or to acquire knowledge in a different field. We prefer to stick to the familiar and claim that old dogs can't learn new tricks. It is common to see such people in any organization: they have found a niche spot in the organization and they luxuriate in the comforts of their own domain.

Often the difficulty in learning comes about not because our minds have somehow degenerated over time but more from our general lack of interest and willpower. Things that used to fill us with so much enthusiasm when we were fresh employees now turn us off. We claim that we have been there and done that. In actual fact we fear going through the learning curve that is filled with much uncertainty, hardship and potential embarassment. We do not want to suffer the ignonimy of becoming novices again.

Sometimes it is just plain laziness that deters us. We cannot find the reason and motivation to go the extra mile to tackle something that is not familiar to us. Our comfort zones are too cozy for us to budge from. The rewards are not strong enough for us to endure the hardship required. We choose not to enjoy those rewards.

These are all impediments to learning and growing. Most of the time, we do not improve because we choose not to. But we ask: isn't it alright to be contented with what we have? Doesn't the man with limited wants lead a more peaceful life?

The problem with remaining static is that decay sets in. The barriers that we seek not to overcome, enclose us even tighter. Everytime we choose to postpone facing a fear, it advances a step closer to us. Everywhere we turn, we see fear staring back at us. Soon our lives shrink into shrivelled cells of despair and desperation. Wasn't it Thoreau who said, the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation?

Where did that desperation come from? It comes from our decision to cling to our existing comforts, our reluctance to explore and embrace, our resistance to change.

The existential choice facing us is cruel sometimes: if we choose not to swim, we sink. Even when the coast seems clear and there's nothing threatening evident on the horizon, be wary: Change, like a thief in the night, creeps in very quietly and stealthily.

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