What’s Remained Constant?

From a 1997 interview between Dan Pink and Richard Bolles of What Color Is Your Parachute? fame:

Pink: Despite all the things we've discussed so far, you're not totally sold on the idea that the world of work is awash in change, are you?

Bolles: No, I'm not. There is a basic truth about what a human needs in order to survive; our culture seems unable to understand that. Human nature survives and has survived through the ages by being able to hold on tenaciously to two concepts: What is there about my life or world that has remained constant? and What is there about my life or world that has changed or is changing? I have always argued that change becomes stressful or overwhelming only when you've lost any sense of the constancy in your life. You need firm ground to stand on. From there, you can deal with that change. Observing the constants in your life gives you that firm ground. The thing about the great faiths is that they talk about what's constant in the world: God, grace, prayer. But our culture, in general — and the profession of career counseling, in particular — gets absorbed with a single question: What's changing? Nobody remembers to ask the other question, What's remained constant?

6 comments on “What’s Remained Constant?
  • Great snag Ben. What, if anything, do you think can serve as that crucial constant for “us”? Presumably not religion, geographical location, or local community.

  • I think Bolles is hinting that this constant can be one’s faith. Not one’s relationship to a religious institution, but something more essential: the relationship one has with God, nature, or the Universe, with a capital “U”.

    It’s unfortunate that this idea is tarnished by the historic manipulation and exploitation of the church itself, an inevitably when you consider it is an institution run by ego-driven human beings. Today, it’s obscured even further by explosion of technology and the incredible beauty and entertainment we can enjoy without ever needing to look within ourselves. I think many people in our generation will go through most of their lives without seriously contemplating the existential question because there’s simply enough noise to block it out.

    Maybe not the angle you were looking for, but that’s my two cents.

  • Hens of the world live on without ever bothering much with the existential question whether all the eggs that they lay will hatch or end up getting fried…Seeking a constant is at best a pursuit, figuring its futility out will define your life.

  • On a more practical level, I consider my need for change to include work, location, and intimate relations; its crucial for me to have 1-2 of these remain constant, while I’ll get bored if all three are constant.

  • I think one should look at the constant as a relative term rather than an absolute. For example, if one was considering changing career/work/job then a possible constant would be family i.e the family would be there to support you in the change and act as an anchor. A few years later after successfully changing career and ‘finding your true passion’ say your family breaks down (a new change), your work/career then becomes your constant and hence your anchor to help you get through this.

    Basically, what it boils down to is that you need to maintain a constant before making a change!

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