The Chaotic Improvement of the Average

The Chaotic Improvement of the Average

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The world is getting better – a lot faster than we think. And yet, generally, we don’t feel it.

A recent survey suggested that more than 9 out of 10 people believe the world is getting worse.

This just isn’t the case. Extreme poverty is collapsing faster than anyone predicted. Life expectancy improvements are accelerating, globally. Despite the 24/7 news about conflicts, the world is actually becoming much more peaceful. Solutions to climate change are appearing at a rapid pace, with new battery technology, electric cars – and the costs of wind and solar power falling far faster than anyone predicted.

Sure, new challenges are emerging, too, but our capacity to address them is speeding up, as well.

And yet, we are neurologically attached to the things we are losing; to what is regressive and backward-looking. We have a tendency to hold onto the past like a security blanket, and focus on negativity and threats to the status quo. It is very hard for us to connect with the things that are progressing.

Learning is a process that involves trial and error. To learn how to do anything, we need to fail far more times than we succeed. And yet, we have this terrible relationship with failure – a fear of it, and a focus on it. The human race has got an awful lot of things wrong in its time, but we forget how much we have got right, in the process.

The real challenge we have to overcome is our attachment to the negative, and the consequent negative perception of the world it gives us.

I see it in my own community. Most people love where they live, but when you ask them about the government, there is a perception that it is ‘going to the dogs’. And yet, decision-making is increasing and the quality of decision is also improving. When you look at the figures in the cold light of day, we have one of the best performing governments in the world.

I notice, more than anything, that expectations are shifting. We are wanting and expecting more – and we want those expectations met faster than our collective capacity to deliver them.

Beyond our collective negativity-bias and our accelerating expectations, there is a really good news story emerging: the world is getting better, much faster than we think.

A very chaotic improvement of the average is going on – which is hard to see or feel when we are so attached to the things that are not improving.

If we all realised that we live in a better place – or world – I am curious about the impact of that feeling on how the world is run.

What I have noticed in my own role as an activist is that the more I celebrate and appreciate what is already happening, the more open people become to change. Saying how bad things are and focussing on what is wrong actually slows down our ability to solve the challenges we see.

So, what if we recognised that spending more time appreciating how far we have come makes it easier to solve the challenges we face?

What if letting go is the fastest way to get what we want?

To recognising what’s going well.


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  1. Yes. Timely message Marc.

  2. I agree from a political perspective that we often think things are worse than they are but I think
    Environmental damage is one area where the
    world still has its head in the sand and change is not happening fast enough.

    • Hi Katy. Personally, I don’t think the world has its head in the sand at all. There are literally millions of people doing lots about it and that number is growing very rapidly. The solutions that the engaged are producing are getting much better much faster than anyone predicted. That isn’t to say that some people are resisting dealing with it and it isn’t to day that it isn’t a massive problem. I’m just saying that much more is being done about it than people realise. It is just very hard to see beyond all of the negative noise around what isn’t being done. With regard to climate change the next 10 years in particular is going to surprise a lot of people in how fast turnaround starts to occur.

  3. Marc,

    I like that this post is thoughtful and thought provoking. It is good to focus on the positive and recognize the challenges that have been overcome. Yes, we all need to appreciate the positive progress being made. But, balance is required. We need to appreciate our past success, study the past successes and failures and focus on the challenges ahead. The balance is required to make a positive impact on our world. Don’t let go of the negative, but embrace it with a healthy dose of positive.

    Failures are how every life form learns how to make life easier or better for themselves. It’s not human nature, it’s just nature. It is equally important to be passionate about the negative challenges that need to be addressed. Without a focus on what we see that is wrong, we lack the motivation required to effect positive change to complex problems. Being consumed with negatives not only delays or halts progress but is bad for your mental and physical health and diminishes the ability to be open minded enough to examine each challenge sufficiently.

  4. Hi Marc. Thanks once again for your thoughtful and uplifting blog. We were in touch recently regarding the charity work I do for Reverse Rett. Since I became involved with Reverse Rett it really has opened my eyes to the fantastic and very rapid progress being made in the field of gene therapy. A cure for Rett – a devastating neurological condition – is expected in the imminent future. It was reversed in the lab at Edinburgh University in 2007 and human clinical trials for a cure are starting in 2019. The weird thing is the media don’t cover this stuff as it’s moving “slowly” relative to our collective attention spans. I am still doing Song Request Tuesday show live each week on the Reverse Rett Facebook page. If you are ever in Edinburgh please get in touch as I would love to interview you on the show. Very best wishes and keep up your great work! Colin

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