The status quo looks after itself. As long as we’re unquestioning, disinterested and disengaged, or feel helpless to act, nothing changes.
In mindfulness, this state is referred to as autopilot, life goes on without us stopping and looking more closely, reflecting, or changing direction. Theory U refers to it as downloading: we simply hit “repeat” and download another day the same as so many others. We see it in the person who says What You See Is All There Is (the WYSIATI factor) or Same Old Same Old (SOSO).
You may have noticed in an organisation or institution you are a part of – work, special-interest, religious, political – how it’s never the right time, or there never is time, to ask the fundamental questions about why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Beyond resistance, in more extreme forms, the status quo has an opinion on everything, quickly judging the unfamiliar as inferior or problematic, measuring everything and everyone by its own unquestioned principles and tenets and experiences.
There’s no system, paradigm, or person watertight to change. Change affects everything and everyone, sometimes unnoticed or unacknowledged, sometimes resisted or vilified. In the end, all of us have our status quo places – fountains pens are mightier than the Bic, rollerball, and definitely the keyboard!
In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman writes what is happening here when he describes our two systems for thinking. System one is what our brain is doing all the time – whether we notice it or not. System two is thinking about what we are thinking. The problem is our System two thinking is lazy, partly because thinking takes a lot of energy. We want to make judgements fast to save energy and we don’t notice how we swap difficult questions for easier ones – “substitution” – leading to drawing rules of thumb by which we judge new information and people – “heuristics.”
What we need to do is suspend the ways we see and understand ourselves, others, and our world, making it possible to be open to more.
SOMETHING TO DO: A good place to begin practicing is in the things we are most curious and interested in already. How will you find out more? Who will you speak with? What will you read? Where might you go that’s different?