Up against reality

There are many cliches about being like water, filling the container you are in, according to its shape, being able to shape landscapes without pushing hard against, flowing along the path of least resistance. Except they are largely true about the attributes of water. The question is what does it look like for us to be ‘like water’.

Personally, I’d say it’s cognitive flexibility, the ability to basically change gears when reality calls for it. And it is not just about the speed you are travelling, but also how you’re travelling, the mode of transport, the exact vehicle you are in, the people you’re riding with. The ability to embrace reality so radically that it is not a sigh of resignation but as if welcoming an unexpected guest with some measure of exuberance.

Our expectations and ability to anticipate works incredibly well when we are often put in life-threatening environments – they save us from harm and keeps us alive. And they also work well in a stable world where routine reigns, and the same scenarios or circumstances recur. That’s why the best assumption to make while forecasting (if you don’t know better) is that things will stay pretty much the same. The struggle is when reality shifts, and you’re up against reality. When things don’t work out as you expected. How quick are you to drop your expectations and go with the flow?

The modern world demands that you get better at that. Not just superficially. Not the fake smile and polite pretensions when the unexpected guest turns up. But actually enjoying this new company, and being unburdened by the plans previously made.

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