For anyone in the academic world--teachers, students, staff, parents--September is the month of change: new faces, new classes, new textbooks, new rosters of names. For those of us at MSOE, this fall brings even more change than usual: new classroom configurations and technology, a new website and social networking Hub, even new phones.
Change, including good change, can be stressful, so we shouldn't be surprised if our first impulse is to react with cynicism or avoidance or hostility. A creative approach to change, however, requires something different: openness.
Why can it be so hard to be open to new experiences? In short, when we are open, we expose ourselves to discomfort and pain. We grope. We fumble. We risk "looking stupid." We let go of what is familiar and easy.
This openness to change is not the same as blind acceptance or living with our heads in the clouds (a phrase that takes on a bit of a different meaning in the age of cloud computing). What psychologist, researcher and author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi found when he studied the lives of successfully creative people is that they shared one element: complex personalities. They were, at the same time, open and playful and discriminating and disciplined. You can read more about Csikszentmihalyi's "Ten Dimensions of Complexity" here: The Creative Personality | Psychology Today
So, what do we do if we are naturally resistant to change but want to take a more creative approach? What works for me is to start by simply noticing and acknowledging my reactions. That snide or cynical comment I am tempted to make (or think) usually masks some level of fear or jealousy or confusion. Then I remind myself of these words by Ralph Waldo Emerson from his essay "Success":
“[A] cynic can chill and dishearten with a single word."