Embracing “Allostasis” in Strategic Planning
A Healthy Approach to Change
Humans often have a negative reaction to change, notwithstanding the fact that life is change. It was therefore with great interest that I read a recent guest essay in the New York Times about change and humans’ relationship with it. In his August 30, 2023, essay, Brad Stulberg1 discussed the concept of “allostasis,” which was developed in the late 1980s by a neuroscientist, Peter Sterling, and a biologist, Joseph Eyer.
In Stulberg’s words, “Allostasis is defined as ‘stability through change,’ elegantly capturing the concept’s double meaning: The way to stay stable through the process of change is by changing, at least to some extent. If you want to hold your footing, you’ve got to keep moving.” It is based on the idea that rather than being rigid, our healthy baseline is a moving target. As Stulberg describes it, “…in allostasis, healthy systems crave stability after a change, but the baseline of that stability can be somewhere new: X to Y to Z.”
Stulberg goes on to point out that “…allostasis has become the predominant model for understanding change in the scientific community. The brain is at its best when it is constantly rewiring itself and making new connections—what we experience as a thriving and stable consciousness is actually a process of ongoing change.”
While resisting change, including trying to get back to where we were prior to a distressing event or circumstance, often worsens the experience, allostasis “…is about balancing acceptance with problem-solving and moving forward to a new normal. A healthy response to change and disorder, whether it’s within ourselves or our environments, is one based on the allostasis process.”
As I have discussed in prior columns, strategic planning is about maintaining stability, while plotting a course for the future. As the data gathering portion of the strategic planning process winds down, it is time to thank all who participated in this phase. Whether you responded to the community survey prepared by our strategic planning consultants MMP Associates, participated in group interviews, or engaged in one-on-one conversations with MMP Associate’s lead, Dr. Michela Perrone, you have helped provide CAMP Rehoboth’s Board of Directors with the data needed to construct a well-informed, data-driven plan for the future of CAMP Rehoboth Community Center.
The Board’s Strategic Planning retreat is scheduled for late October. Realizing that our “healthy baseline is a moving target” will help the Board and our community approach the inevitability of change in a way that is proactive and positive. Heeding Stulberg’s words, the Board is committed to balancing acceptance of change with problem-solving and moving forward to yet another “new normal.” The future for CAMP Rehoboth Community Center is both stable and bright and we look forward to many more years of ongoing change for the better. ▼
1 Brad Stulberg writes about excellence and mental health, and is author of the new book, Master of Change: How to Excel When Everything Is Changing—Including You.
Leslie Ledogar is CAMP Rehoboth Board Vice President.