Evolutionary baggage is a bitch. According to biologists we have the equivalent of three brains -- the reptilian, the mammalian, and the higher cortex -- each of which developed during a different stage of evolution. Our reptilian chunk of gray matter, being the oldest, controls our most basic instinct -- survival.
Our knuckle-dragging ancestors lived in a harsh environment, where stability equaled survival. Those who ventured just far enough from the cave to gather the basic necessities lived long enough to have kids; those who trekked too far died before they had the chance. So we've inherited a "don't rock the boat" ethic in which change equals death.
These days, however, change equals survival. Take the case of the graphic designer who was afraid to buy a computer. "As the years went by, people wanted her to turn in her work digitally," explains Mikela Tarlow, author of Navigating the Future: A Practical Guide to Success in the New Millennium. "The first year she lost a few jobs, the next year even more, and, by the third year, she was losing a lot of income. And it all had to do with her resistance to the new system."
Tarlow and her husband, Philip, are former South Floridians and long-time relationship consultants who, a few years ago, found a niche in "psychological futurism." The book, for which Philip acted as consultant, is the basis of the seminars and consulting work they do to teach companies and individuals how to cope in an increasingly fast-paced world. For example, it used to take 1000 years for humans to double the population, then only 200 years, then 50. Today exponential growth can be seen in nearly every area of life: increases in computing capacity, extinction of species, loss of topsoil. "[It's] a degree of change greater than the industrial revolution, in one-tenth the time," Tarlow writes.
But never fear. Tarlow offers eight "tools" for thriving amid the chaos of modern living. One of them she calls "Emotions of Change."
"During the first stage of resistance to change, we hold on tighter," she explains. "So the first year, [the graphic designer] justified [her resistance] by saying that what she was doing was more personal. Then the bubble burst, and she went into a stage of uncertainty. You feel like you don't know yourself and you can't go into action. In the third stage, you're trying out new behaviors and getting into a new momentum after initial fear evaporates. Once she had knowledge of those emotions, she was able to make the change."
Another key tool is "The Zone," a term usually reserved for sports. "Athletes reach a hyper-superior state of performance when they exceed what they've previously done," says Tarlow. But everyone is capable of it. And once you're there all you have to do is pay attention. "You are able to recognize those moments when you're in a flow and you accomplish more than you would normally," Tarlow explains. "By merely entering that state more often, your performance increases and your stress is reduced. Philip is also an artist and I write, so we became aware of it in our own lives."
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In fact their lives inspired the book. Years of globetrotting had left the Tarlows on the brink of burnout, so in 1991 they left Miami and headed west for a three-month sabbatical. It turned into a year and a half, and resulted in a permanent move to secluded Crestone, Colorado. "Somewhere about midway into that [sabbatical], the [book] title came into my mind," Tarlow recalls.
Using their own tools, the Tarlows became as active as ever but without all the stress. And that graphic designer? "Now she's having a record-breaking year," says Tarlow. "And she actually likes the computer better."
-- John Ferri
Mikela and Philip Tarlow will discuss Navigating the Future: A Practical Guide to Success in the New Millennium at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, November 6. The talk will take place at Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 2840 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens. Admission is free. Call 561-863-4849.