Self Preservation vs. Realizing you have a problem

What took my close to 50 years to understand was that many of my reactions to situations are about one thing, Self Preservation.  Our brains, in in fact every living organism, is about self preservation.  I (and many of the people I know personally as well as those reading this)  are extremely lucky and blessed to have most of our basic needs met, food, shelter, and air.  After that everything else is just extra.  Although my kids thing a Range Rover is a necessity, I have to remind them nope, its extra.

But with basic needs met, what do our self preservation instincts do?  Most of the time it helps you while crossing the road (unless you are looking at your cell phone) so you don’t get hit by a car that you notice movement from your peripheral vision.  But what has become the new twist on the brain you react to change, as well as wanting to keep the status quo in your life the same.  Now there are people who are actively going for change, like a new job etc.  But in many cases most of the people I know, want to keep their lives moving forward, slowly with little alternation.

When life throws a monkey wrench in to what is your world, you then act out.  Your world can be your job, your relationships, even the election.   I found myself a long time ago over reacting to something, that was not in my control, and not even anything I could affect, because I was afraid of what it would do to me.  Why my personal life was going to be miserable, and because of social media I was able to find like minded others.  Posting my anger got me likes, and I didn’t care about who I alienated, as it was about me not anyone else.  It took me a while to realize it shouldn’t have been that way, that no matter what was wrong with what was going on, others are not you, and have their own problems that they perceive as their world that needs fixing.

I grew from that situation, and took stock.  I learned that I don’t attack someone posting in a space whereas there is more than one side, I don’t retort in my posts either (sub-tweet as they say) as I understand things around me will change.  Bruce Lee once said, “To Change with Change, is a Changeless state” – and yes, if I want my changeless state, I need to change with what is going around me, not fight to keep my current status.

Besides social media being this outlet for self preservation, there is a second one that also shows (mainly because of where I work) it head to often.  During the economic downturn many people lost their jobs.  So often, people react to issues at work with the notion of how do I keep my job.  How do I do what I am doing so that I can survive.  I need to provide food and shelter, so what do I need to do so that my homeostasis is continued.  Only thinking about my self preservation, the company is second, so what is the proper solution to problems where I look good, or I come out of issues not looking bad, someone else does.

This view of wanting to put the self first, leads to a plethora of bad decisions at work.  From technology choices, direction choices etc.  I have seen people argue about moving forward even though whatever is working isn’t working properly, but its less scary than going to the unknown.  Or people spending more time figuring out how to cover their ass instead of taking the risk, trying to get the company better.  The goal of this action is “who to blame” when a decision is made if it goes wrong, as opposed to putting all effort into making it succeed.   I work with software developers, and many would love the chance to put in effort to get the best stuff working, instead of patching the old thing over and over again, even though it often is just putting a duct tape on a problem.

This self preservation may lead to also those not seeing their deficiencies.  When making the decisions, if one constantly goes to their strengths, there is no way for you to grow.  Technology is moving faster, and making those decisions is often balance between what you know, and what is right going forward.  I have learned to hire people around me that are in my blind spots, my weaknesses.   I have also told them, after I hired them, this is what I need your help in.  The ones who step up and do it, are the keys to our success.   I know that I am not perfect, that every year when I get a review, often my deficiencies are swept under a rug, and it is up to myself to figure out what is not going right, or what am I not doing well enough to either change, or build my team to resolve.  But it has become that, as my new self preservation vs. the old me who would lash out and figure out who was to blame, who was at fault, and who needs to be punished for my actions.

It is unfortunate we teach high school students many things that are not of value, instead of teaching them how to constantly learn and change.   To think of self preservation not as a survival instinct that needs a reaction like it used to, but one that needs to extend as a learning experience for yourself to get better.  Yes, it does not mean get hit by that car, but and I am not talking about that, but the same basic instinct needs to be updated so that we often do things that are better for the common good, than just ourselves.  We do have the ability to adapt, and as things change around us, we can alter our lives to keep moving forward.