Homeostasis

Homeostasis is a powerful concept.

It refers to a complex system’s tendency to maintain equilibrium.

When something changes, the system will actively try to restore the status quo. Only after these efforts fail will the system evolve and achieve a new equilibrium.

Human systems are profoundly homeostatic. Bodies. Marriages. Families. Organizational cultures. Nations.

Change, even positive change, will stress an existing system:

You start a promising new job… and suddenly your skin breaks out.

You go after a long-held dream… and then your loved ones subtly or overtly refuse to support you. (When you change, it can destabilize other people’s systems.)

Your business commits to a new, more effective management style… but two months later you find yourselves doing things “the old way.”

George Leonard writes eloquently about homeostasis in his book Mastery:

“Expect resistance and backlash. Realize that when the alarm bells start ringing, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re sick or crazy or lazy or that you’ve made a bad decision in embarking on a journey of mastery. In fact, you might take these signals as an indication that your life is definitely changing—just what you’ve wanted. Of course, it might be that you have started something that is not right for you; only you can decide. But in any case, don’t panic and give up at the first sign of trouble.”

A few nights ago I was torn between a desire to go for a walk and a seemingly stronger desire to stay home on the couch. I started walking anyway, but I felt tired and wanted to turn back. I went through the motions for five blocks. Six blocks. Seven. And then my body slowly adapted to the new state of affairs, and I began going up and down the hills effortlessly, for over an hour. I found energy through walking.