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Updated: Dec 2, 2021

Living courageously is a never-ending process by which we shake our assumptions to reveal who we are, work on our surrounding to reflect who we're becoming – and repeat. This self-tuning process and we (not life, and not others) are the ones responsible for the shake up.

We are told to finish what we started and try harder. We are told to build a career, a home, a marriage, a family. It is not expected of us to change our lives in ways that do not support the image that others project on us. We tend to avoid disruptions that may appear puzzling, odd or worse, irresponsible or crazy. We end up assuming social identities[i]. Although we may feel at odds with our family, our career, our social circle or even our culture, we learn to present an acceptable self to most and keep our quirks for a few. We make so-called important life choices even though we may not be ready to make them – the choice of a given path that will influence us further than we can imagine at the time. These choices shape us. We grow into them and start building patterns and habits. Change becomes harder.

Economists are well aware of our tendency towards resistance to change. Richard Thaler, the behavioral economist who developed economic applications for the status quo bias[i], a concept initially developed by the psychologists Kahneman and Tversky, explains how Choices architect (policy makers, marketers, etc.) can arrange information so that our attention is subtly directed towards change (think: the healthy item on the top of the restaurant menu or at eye-level on the shelf at the supermarket). These tiny nudges can influence our decisions and initiate structural change by using our biases. They assume we are imperfect subjects prone to errors and smartly use this assumption. Nudges are an efficient weapon against inertia, but their impact is short lived. We may motivate ourselves by looking for inspiration in a book, a coach, a method, a mentor, a story. But as time passes, our newfound drive often weakens. Our routine returns, and with it old habits, beliefs, and muscle memory. How can we engineer a systemic shake up?

We seek out conditions for fulfillment and well being through social relationships, purposeful and engaged work and financial independence. But under the noise created by marriage, job changes, career accomplishments, house moves, break ups, economic ups and downs, unemployment and failures, lies another story made of long term trends, patterns and slow structural changes: a story of non-events carried by beliefs, bias and experimentations. Major life events are not necessarily the result of carefully aligned life choices: they're often a continuation of something that we randomly started or the lucky outcome of something that we tried. This is our untold story, the one that won't make it to our resume or our obituary. We continuously rewrite it as we move along, as we add material and experiences. It resembles more a layered terrain than a linear timeline. Its science is more comparable to geology and archeology than psychology. Our life is the successive collections of stories we tell others and ourselves. Behind these ever-changing stories runs a slow undercurrent we can learn to hear and express. By doing so, we become the author and architect of our life.

As life goes on, we become a citizen of our own self, this mysterious land: we get comfortable with the prairies and the valleys, the landfills and the gardens, their diverse geographies, climates and seasons. We reclaim our self: our past, our present and our future. We recognize our ultimate responsibility in all aspects of a life that we need to make our own – not the life that our father or mother wanted us to live, not the life our partner think they deserve or the one that our friends and peers have come to expect. It is tough to let go of what we believe we have to prove. We must stick to this gravitational shift to conduct our quiet personal Copernican revolution.

[i] Kahneman, D.; Knetsch, J.L; Thaler, R.H (1991): “Anomalies: The Endowment Effect, Loss Aversion and the Status Quo Bias", Journal of Economic Perspectives: 193-206

[i] Mc Leod, S.A. (2008), “Social Identity theory”, retrieved from, citing Tajfel, H and Turner, JC (1979). An Integrative Theory Of Intergroup Conflict, The Social Psychology Of Intergroup Relations

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