Human beings are just not wired for change. It’s that simple. No matter how much we think we want it and are ready to take the plunge, the sweaty-palmed hand wringing over decisions large and small betrays our human need to avoid fear and uncertainty at any cost. I like to think of it as that primal instinct that has us running for the safety of our cave to curl up with our wubby blanket.
I encounter this phenomenon on a daily basis and it surprises me that I’m still amazed by it. Clients hire me, hell, they pay me, to turn their world upside down and give them something new, something amazing, something different, and yet. There is often that moment of panic and uncertainty once they’ve made the decision, sometimes followed by the buyer’s remorse or regret, and always ending with that “adjustment period” once the change has actually ocurred. Like clockwork, never fails. Even when it’s clearly better, when common sense says OMG, this is great, there is still that internal pause, that sliver of uncertainty. Why?
I think it’s because we are habitual animals who honestly just want things to be better and different, but also to stay the same. We know that change is inevitable, but the pull of the known is strong. It seems we are stuck in a constant conundrum. I’m also an easily fascinated person (and an armchair therapist) so the fact that this happens on every project I work on only serves to intrigue me more. And I don’t say this to be critical but rather, to tell my past, future and existing clients that they are not alone and that this is, in fact, perfectly normal. And while I always try to prepare my clients for this inevitable discomfort, it’s a phenomenon that just has to be tolerated, pushed through, survived, on the way to the decorating promised land. It’s like the stages of grief, or starting a new job – there’s no shortcut, there’s no work-around and it’s desperately uncomfortable, until it’s not.
The other remarkable thing is that this feeling does subside. We not only get used to our new environment, we start to notice new and wonderful things about it as the edges wear down and we begin to break it in. Then the love happens. Which is my favorite part of course, because it leads to the by-now-predictable state of “how did I ever live without this!” and my imminent, prideful, told-you-so, inner gloat – the currency of all good design.