Are you a Butterfly or a Rock?


Change takes time, and often it’s instinctive to avoid it. We are creatures of habit really and once we are familiar with something we tend to like to stick with it.

Some of us hate change and some of us seek it. But, inevitably, most of us land between both camps, and that will vary according to what the activity is.


We basically fall on a line that ranges from a tradition-based, habit-loving character, to the other end which is a sanguine, restless character, with a low tolerance to familiarity. On first sight the traditionalist might seem to dislike change, and the sanguine embrace it, flitting from one thing to another like a butterfly visiting flowers.

If you like to holiday in the same place or visit the same restaurant, or choose the same seat in the train, chances are you are a habit lover… Its easier and involves less thought, fewer decisions and simply easier. Less risky. Safe. But the habit lover type also suggests a character that’s dependable and thorough, and someone more likely to start things and finish them! The habit lover is a rock in shifting sand.


If you are a butterfly, you might be more of an ideas person, but less good at action. You are more about ‘why’ less about ‘how’. Your projects sound great, but many stay in your head, few are written down and even fewer get actioned. Its cousin Rock that will more likely have the method the money and the means all worked out before setting out on a new direction.


So both characters can resist change, just in different ways.


One of the reasons change takes time is simply that our brains need a few basics to get the ball rolling. We need time, repetition and rehearsal to reproduce behaviours at an unconscious level. Think about learning to use a knife and fork. We might not remember going through the learning process ourselves, but try watching a child to do it for the first time – It’s an awkward, slow and clumsy process that’s almost impossible to watch, and I’m sure most parents will confess to losing it on occasion and grabbing the knife and fork, saying

“I’ll do it”.

Those hard-to-watch little fingers are just the visible bit of an exquisitely precise set of neural pathways that are being set up between fingers and brain, involving eye-hand coordination, fine motor control, concentration, visual acuity, touch, grip, asymmetric movement, chewing, Also at work are a whole host of senses like taste, touch and sight. And throw in a dollop of psychological and social pressures (like the glaring tired eyes from Mum who is really just wanting to get some food in all mouths, and tonight’s meal over).

In adulthood (well hopefully well before that) eating has become a subconscious process that we master in a precise and skilled way. And though peas might occasionally escape we mostly eat without incident, while juggling other activities, like talking and chatting, watching TV, or whatever, without giving it much thought. Eating has become a subconscious skill.

If you don’t believe me, try swapping your knife and fork into opposite hands and then trying to eat! Now you are having to perform the activity in a conscious way, and its probably not quite so smooth or attractive frankly. Use a napkin!

What’s happened is that the neural connections have been established, linking all the movements and senses together that combine for acquisition of the activity ‘eating with knife and fork’. Even more precisely, your bite and chewing actions will adjust to the type of food you’re eating, and you tongue learns such fine movements, and is so exquisitely sensitive, that it can even find and un-trap tiny scraps of food from the nooks and crannies.

The neural pathways start with observation. The young child has the desire to mimic and follow what others do. So it watches and wants to copy, that starts the first connections, but its still a rough, barely visible pathway. As the child is given the opportunity and the time to repeat and practice the pathway gets smoother, quicker, remembered, the coordination improves, its quicker, mum and dad encourage and smile which reinforce and refine the action. Now the pathway is like a road, tarmacked and smart, and smooth and fast.

Adults learn in the same way, and we all keep learning and changing throughout life. But the smooth tarmac can only be laid on the rough rubble once the direction or the path has been decided. And the first important step is choosing the path.

Choosing to change takes effort.

Believing you can change needs commitment.

Making change stick takes time.

Butterfly, or Rock. Have fun.

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