Why we need instability

We love comfort, we love certainty, we love to predict our future, or at least we think so. In this blog I will show you why we should love the opposite. Ever since the mechanisation of our worldview through the laws of physics described by Newton and the following Industrial Revolution that these changes facilitated we have started to see ourselves as a machine. This paradigm has brought us a lot, we have made a lot of progress in technology. But it has also drifted us away from the biology that we are fundamentally a part of.

According to the machine paradigm, human beings, whether an athlete or a client are seen as a lifeless, static system build up from a collection of building blocks that form a pyramid, with the brain on top as the central governor, orchestrating the rest of the pyramid. Static systems can’t change themselves and pressure from outside is necessary for movement. Change from this perspective is not a fluent dynamic phenomenon but rather a repositioning from point A to point B, from one static state to another. Like a machine there is input (training, nutrition, recovery) and that input together provides an output (adaptation, improvement). Change is a necessary and inconvenient thing, we try to minimise the need for change as much as possible to keep things the way they are as much as possible in an attempt to predict and control the future. We try to plan all surprises and uncertainties out of our lives. This conservative approach is a death penalty for a living system and actually is a big stagnating force on true development and prosperity.

Stability through change is one of the big paradoxes of life and training. Living systems are driven by allostatic processes, which actually gain stability through the constant changes and not despite of it. So stability and change or not two opposites of each other, yet rather one causes the other in a dynamic way. They have a mutual relationship and co-evolve together. So when there are a lot of changing processes, the interaction of those processes leads to some emerging form of stability, for example your blood pressure or your heart rate. Your blood pressure is not a stand-alone entity that just is there. It comes into being by all kinds of other factors and finds stability in a state of dynamic non-equilibrium.
When the constant changing processes would stagnate or cease to exist, also the blood pressure would cease to exist. The same goes for our heart rate and all other systemic processes in our functioning body. Within all of these stable processes there needs to be an optimal bandwidth of variability. When our heartbeat would beat as regular as clockwork we would be dead in a minute. So having no variability and instead having perfect regularity is as bad as having no heartbeat at all.

The same goes for human movement patterns. There is no such thing as a perfect technique and a perfect movement that can be replicated exactly. There actually needs to be a bandwidth of variability from repetition to repetition, in order to move well. To understand how this works and why this works the way it does we need to understand the difference between complicated systems and complex systems.

In complicated systems we can come up with the best solutions possible. In complex systems however there is no ‘perfect solution’, rather is there a need for workable solutions with quick adaptation-possibilities. The more and better options a complex system has for workable solutions, the more robust (being able to maintain stability despite perturbations) and anti-fragile (improving performance not despite, but because of the perturbations) it becomes. Whether a solution is workable is depending on the goal of the system. Movement is always goal-oriented and depending on whether the goal is reached or not in a safe and effective way the movement solution can be seen as successful or not.

The purpose of living systems is to find out what works in order to maintain its dynamic kinetic stability. The capability to have continuous change, to keep changing in order to discover what works is what keeps every organism alive. This is why we need instability, it triggers us to find a better stability a more robust and resilient one. Don’t rest, don’t settle, find stability through change.

By | 2018-09-18T10:45:33+00:00 August 20th, 2018|