The one constant in life, Change.

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The one constant in life. Change.

Over the years I've talked extensively about change with friends, family and co-workers. If you look at my life I experience a lot of public changes. Often people will ask me how I deal with all these changes because they have this perception that my life is a constant chaotic set of changes. Of course the truth is everyone's life is a chaotic mess of interactions, but most people don't see them in their own life, they think because they show up to the same job every day, live in the same city and other daily routines that somehow their life is simpler and less chaotic. The reality is we're all subject to change, at some level we wouldn't have been born without an egg and a sperm smashing into each other in some random chaotic event. If you think about it from that perspective the reality is that life is born of mass chaos that we ignore because we'd melt down if we tried to comprehend it all.

"How do you handle all the changes in your life.."

Every time I hear this I have to hold back the pure laughter I want to burst into. I try to take the question very seriously because the person asking clearly thinks their life is stable and they're surprised at my seemingly calm approach to changes going on in my life. Rather then slap them into a self-reflective analysis of chaos in their own life I start by sharing some of my thinking on this topic in my life.

I suppose it could be a bit true that compared to some people I've experienced a lot of change that most people try to avoid. However I would argue if people stop and look the only real difference is I am fairly deliberate in how I try to guide changes that happen in my life. Rather then run from change, I embrace it, often I instigate it and sometimes others instigate. Does it really matter why a change happens? What matters is our response to the change. Our fears of change often keep us from doing what we want because of the great unknown after the change.

When I speak of change to groups I start by making the statement:

"I know one thing that is true about change for every single person in this room. Not one single change you have experienced thus far in your life has killed you. And in the future the one change that does will not matter."

I find the crowd's reaction fascinating when I first make this statement, to watch as it sinks in. As they think about the simplicity of that statement I start to describe what I think is the underlying basis for our fear of change. At the base level we are just humans and we carry a massive legacy of behaviors designed to promote our survival. Our ancestors were subject to much more real life survival impacting events then we experience in our modern existence. I'm not saying we've removed all survival impacting issues, however when our ancestors spent each day trying to eat and not be eaten by predators they had very valid reasons for the behavior systems they developed and passed on to us.

If we look at our modern life we do not live at that level of open threat of our survival. I'm not worried a large predator is going to eat me on the way to work today, yes I might die in a car accident, but that's still not the same. However internally we still have these systems we developed to improve our survival. Over time as they get less and less exposed to real threats they search for more nuanced threats "what if I loose my job?", "what if my {x} leaves me?". When our mind reviews these nuanced threats we can't easily separate them from real life survival threats. Now all these "threats" become substituted for real credible threats to our survival. Once this happens all the processes kick in that are designed to help us "fight or flight" and improve the odds of our organism surviving. Many people will start sweating or their heart will start racing when you talk to them about the potential of change around a job, a major relationship or other things that really have very little impact on our base survival. It is my opinion that these systems are what cause so many people to fear change or to be paralyzed by change when it impacts their life.

Does that mean I'm fearless about changes in my life? Not for one hot second, I like every normal person have that sinking feeling in my stomach when I am confronted with a change I didn't plan for. Often even when I've fully planned out a change I still have these reactions stirring in my head. The difference is that I know these are normal and I can use that knowledge to talk myself off the ledge. Sometimes it takes more energy to get to a good place, but in general I just keep telling myself "This change won't kill me and if it does it won't matter".

The reality is we all experience changes in our life, most of those changes we are not aware of, from the transformation of food into fuel and the chemical processes that just keep this amazing biological machine we call our bodies running. That said often what seems chaotic can actually be more like an amazing ballet of interactions that when you look back on them make perfect sense. How often is the phrase "Hindsight is 20/20" used? It's obvious, but often when you look back you can see there was less chaos and more an interaction of many variables that brought you to where you are today.

Recently I came up with an exercise that really blew me away. I made a mind-map like diagram of everyone I could think of who lead me to where I am today in my career, the people who introduced me to other people and the events that exposed me to new opportunities. When I look back at this graph of my life timeline it's clear that as I was living through these events I could only predict one thing about the future: It was going to change...

One constant in life...


“Everything changes, nothing remains without change” — Buddha