Of Frogs, Captains, Iceburgs...and Eagles!
Marc Fourcade reflects on what you need to change the course of your life

The world is moving. Either we move with it or we move against it, in which case we may not be strong enough!  The forces on the move are enormous and uncontrollable; they are the forces of nature, the forces of life.  The power to change is the power to live.

The Creation is in permanent re-creation.  It dies and is reborn at every instant.  It becomes ugly and makes itself beautiful again at each breath.  It does not stop undoing what it had started so well; as it chases away the spring it puts summer in its place; it languishes in autumn and then hits you in winter.  Nature, day by day, gives us the tempo of life—but it is hard for us to follow, being weighed down by the baggage we carry from the past, containing the weight of our memories and our nostalgia.

For many of us, changing implies losing.  It is not always related to the conscious area of ourselves.  Entangled in our habits, our routines, we are seldom willing to leave safe areas of inner comfort.  Every time we do move away from our comfort zones, it is synonymous with danger.  Coming out of the shell of our apparent certainty is like entering a jungle of ignorance, anguish, and maybe death.  As Woody Allen once said, “As long as a man will consider himself mortal, he will never really feel relaxed,” and we could probably add “and never really be ready change”.

Very often, in order to obtain something new, one has to renounce something old.  This is often goes against the grain as our tendency is to both have our cake and eat it.  We always wish to have more but nevertheless don't want to renounce our attainments.  For that reason, we have invented a wonderful quality: adaptability.  It allows us to attain new things without getting rid of the old things.  It is called the patrimonial instinct.

Adaptability is of itself a beautiful quality, but it also presents a few dangers if we don’t know what we are adapting to.  The human organism, for example, adapts very successfully to tobacco, alcohol, fats and even to arsenic in small doses, but each one can eventually make the body sick and even kill it.  The frog is legendary for its capacity to adjust its body temperature to the surrounding temperature.  However, when it is submerged in a pan of water that is gradually heated up, it adapts and adapts and is eventually boiled as it lacks the energy to jump out of the pot.  Are we not also trapped at times in situations where we adapt instead of jumping, until it is too late?

An individual does change when his major interests are at stake.  When he realises his emotional and mental balance, his health and his life are threatened, he suddenly realises he has the means to change.  Change obeys at least three criteria: need, awareness and the power to act.  In this trilogy, information plays an essential role; in other words, how can one apprehend, understand and act without any information, without knowing.  The essential need for right information is illustrated in the story if a certain ship’s captain of the Norwegian navy who was caught one night in the fog in the Galapagos.  His ship was the flagship of the fleet.  Faced with a flickering light headed straight towards his ship, he sent three signals requesting the ship bearing the light to changes its course by twenty degrees to avoid collision.  At the very last moment, he furiously had to change his own course to avoid collision with that unrelenting light, which turned out to be a very stable lighthouse. 

Information is the pivotal point in any process of change.  It is not enough to know that one has to change; one also needs to have the know-how, in which case information is power.  Information is not only at the heart of the challenge of change, but it is also the reason why there is so much resistance to change.  Despite living in the information age we are not really that well-informed, at least in terms of quality, either about ourselves or our surroundings.

Quite recently a study published by two French writers, Regis and Brigitte Dutheil, a physicist and a philosopher, in their book called “The Super Light Man”, revealed to what extent the role of information is essential in the development of our awareness of events, and beyond that, the shaping of our behaviour.  They tell us how our awareness of our environment is limited to the quite weak capacity of our sense organs.  Our eyes, for instance, are only able to perceive a spectrum of colours between 0.3 and 0.8 angstrorn, that is, from pale blue to dark red, and therefore we are totally unable to perceive ultra violet or infra red rays.  The same applies to our ears, which cannot hear very low or very high frequencies; and to our nose, the olfactory cells of which are unable to compete with those of a dog!  This type of information about our environment is always incomplete, and yet we continue to interpret the way the world works and the nature of life from this very limited input.

If we only have very little information about our surroundings, we have even less about our inner world—the way we function psychologically, the mechanism of our thoughts, our emotions and our personal resources.  We have integrated over the course of years—through our education, our experiences, our discoveries, our realisations—an incredible quantity of memories which today constitute our internal reference system.

These memories, linked to one another at the heart of a complex internal network, are the mother earth of our thoughts and also of our behaviour.  The quality and strength of these memories and the way in which we use them determine our emotions, our reactions, our desires and our state of mind.  Our ability to change ourselves lies in our potential to manage this bank of information but first we have to find out what exactly is in the bank, that is to say, we have to get to know ourselves.  There is scarcely any other method than to plunge deeply inwards and go through the indescribable morass of memories to try to find ourselves, and know where we are at.

The human being is a like an iceberg.  We only know the emerged visible part of it, that is, scarcely ten percent of the personality.  The merged ninety per cent is under the surface, and constitutes its essential reality.  Nevertheless, with what little information we have, we try to anticipate its reactions, to foresee its changes, to act on its behaviour.  If the wind is blowing north to south you would expect the iceberg to move south, but contrary to expectations it moves north, because the current is pushing ninety percent of its mass under the surface in the opposite direction.

In the case of an individual, the conscious ten per cent is not strong enough to fight against the ninety per cent of the subconscious of buried memories and forgotten emotions—hidden in the shadows of our past, incognito, but active and representing a very powerful, invisible current.  This is one of the key reasons why we have so many problems—whether in terms of organisational management or in terms of self-management.  We are over-informed and submerged with excessive, irrelevant and bad quality information about the ten percent of reality accessible our five senses, and under-informed in quantity and quality about the ninety per cent our reality.  What a pity, because we all possess unsuspected resources, but our narrow vision of ourselves and our mental limits prevent us from drawing on them and expressing them.

This is illustrated by the story of the eagle’s egg which was hatched by a hen.  Since its birth, the baby eagle’s only environment was the world of chickens.  He grew up as a chicken, ate like a chicken, ran like a chicken, communicated like a chicken and lived like a chicken.  Then one day near the end of his life he looked up into the infinity of the sky and admired the majestic gliding of the large royal eagle overhead, and he began to dream of flying like him!

This story enlightens us about the incredible impact information has on our stages of consciousness and beyond this on our behaviour and quality of life. An excess of information about the superficial in our external environment drowns out awareness of our internal environment which is essential if we are to capture subtle signals which require a great deal of sensitivity as well as intuition to be perceived.  Beyond what our five senses perceive, there is an unlimited dimension to explore.  There is an unsuspected field of vibrations rich in quality information capable of radically transforming our vision of the world and of ourselves.  For this, we have to stop being surfers and become divers and discover the treasures of the soul in the silence of the depths of our own being.

Meditation is the royal path for this travel to the centre of the self, the search for the Holy Grail, the search for perfection, for the pure beauty of the original being.  Michelangelo had one good argument to convince the sceptics that many of us have become.  One day, when he was tired of the praise of an admirer about an enormous sculpture that he had just finished, he replied to her, “Madam, I only took off the stone that was not necessary, the perfection lay inside.”

Is there not, in that awareness, a good reason to start the voyage towards the centre of the self?

Marc Fourcade is a Management Consultant in the field of Human Resource Development based in Paris.

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