Change is inevitable. Whether progress is made or things regress, change replaces what we regard as the status quo. Humans are notoriously slow in processing and accepting change due to our brains’ limited capacity to comprehend information outside our comfort zones, making social evolution accelerate at a snail’s pace. Other factors like biological (tribal) instincts, the environment we grew up in or the ones we find ourselves in now, tend to reinforce already learned behaviors & thought processes which makes it harder for our minds to challenge outside information–basically, our brains become comfortable within certain parameters of thought (repetitive day-to-days), causing us to become less malleable to change.
That’s why we always see resistance when civilizations try to move forward. Human history tells us that we’ve had every opportunity to make positive progress, but there are always too many people complacent in their mindsets that simply want to adhere to the basic biological needs for self-preservation. The end result is repetition of the same mistakes again-and-again until a future generation finally breaks free from the evolutionary trap that is our biological nature and our brains’ susceptibility to comfort.
Older generations provide a good example because we often correlate the way they think with stubbornness. Many of us justify or tolerate the things they say or do because “‘they are old and stuck in their ways.” How many times has grandma or grandpa said things that are no longer approved by today’s standards of conduct? They have fallen victim to intellectual stagnation because their brains have them convinced they are in the correct mindset, just like the rest of us–except it is easier for younger generations to modify theirs.
To see palpable change, it typically takes a society decades to achieve the smallest victories, sometimes longer. There are many factors responsible for progress taking a lifetime, but there is one glaring fact we should consider: older people are always in charge. Wisdom should not be discredited because it is needed to make rational decisions, but how much change can occur when the people who run everything are stuck in their ways? Many of us don’t really see change until one generation dies out and the reasoning of the next generation takes over, but by then, that generation is out of touch and another future generation is awaiting their turn to implement what’s important to them.
Take women’s right to vote, equal rights for people of color, LGBTQ rights, etc.; all of those social movements took a very long time. It took generation after generation to learn and understand the meaning of injustice to achieve those victories, but they are still battles we are fighting today because my generation does not share the same views as those who are in charge and vice-versa. There are still those who live by social rules established decades ago.
So how do we alter a mindset, on the national & individual scale, to hasten the process of change?
Unfortunately, I question whether or not it is possible without time and patience.
The change that does occur, happens generationally because societal norms change. When we are raised, we adapt a sense of normalcy. What is normal as a child translates into what is considered normal as an adult. If we are not exposed to anything outside of this bubble, we become close-minded to “abnormalities” or things beyond our comfort zone, which creates ignorance and bigotry.
Not too long ago, it wasn’t normal to have women speak-up to a man, or see people of color in certain areas, or witness homosexuals holding hands in public. Now that these things are becoming a normality, the children exposed to them don’t think any differently about those people or the actions taken. That generation will be faced with a different set of changes than the ones we face today.
After all is said and done, I suppose the best way to change a mindset is to get people first-hand exposure to the changes they are hesitant to come around to. Make normal what is deemed different or abnormal. Secondly, have older generations listen to the younger ones and make wise decisions based on their plight.
Lastly, enforce into our own brains that we will not allow ourselves to become closed off to new, foreign, or different information. Assess everything with an objective mindset so we do not get stuck within the comfortable limits our minds become accustomed to. Remember that being uncomfortable means our brains our being challenged, accept it.
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