As individuals we long for change. But on a collective level, we feel paralyzed by the failure to initiate change. There seems to always a new crisis distracting us from the pressing problem that lie ahead of us. That makes us quickly forget that recently it seemed that half the planet was on fire and that many people also lost their lives in floods right on our doorstep. A fact that for many of us was unthinkable until recently. So, the impacts are really coming closer. Climate change is not coming someday in the future. It is already here. And we still keep going back to business as usual, hoping that it will somehow go away on its own.
None of this is new. This reaction is only human. And it is certainly necessary to move on, because our brains cannot stay in constant alarm mode. And yet I keep asking myself: Since we all will be personally affected by this, why do we keep constantly failing as a collective? We seem to be perfectly capable as individuals of recognizing the dangers, but absolutely incapable as a community of taking the necessary action. Instead of taking action ourselves, we all wait for salvation. We hope for the technological miracle or the (political) leadership that will finally tell us what to do.
There is nothing wrong with hoping. Hope is fundamental to our psychology. We need something to look forward to. But we also need the feeling that hope can be fulfilled. Optimism and positive thinking are a great thing. And it’s absolutely true that pessimism doesn’t really help either. But in order to actually change something, we shouldn’t just hope blindly, but add two more dimensions to our thinking: the degree of comfort we feel with the status quo and the sense of agency we experience.
It takes more than hope to start changing
I have found for myself that I only change something if I am convinced
that things have to get better (discomfort with status quo)
that it can get better (optimistic outlook)
that I can contribute to the solution myself (sense of agency)
So, change needs dissatisfied optimists who know where they can make a difference. That is what shiftshaping is about.