Improvise, adapt, overcome: Change is inevitable
Wednesday, August 07, 2019
"Improvise! Adapt! Overcome!" I feel like I’m doing this a lot lately. I first heard this phrase when my son was in high school — it’s what his AP chemistry teacher barked at his students when they complained. Considered an informal U.S. Marines slogan, it sure can help direct us when we’re faced with change — be it desired or not.
Most of us are content operating within our regularities, routines and rituals. We like the stability and safety of the status quo.
When things get shaken up, often we get frustrated, impatient, and mad. Or frightened. A diagnosis, death, job loss, and aging all require us to move into a new normal.
Think, too, of the task of moving. Most of us hate the massive upheaval this singular event produces and don’t really start to feel settled until after we’ve put everything away and returned to some sort of rhythm.
Even when we are doing something fun — like going on vacation — it can be disruptive. How often have we said, "It feels so good to be back home?"
Recently, I traveled with my elderly mother. While navigating traffic and airports is challenging at any age these days, I got to see firsthand how difficult it can be to adjust as we get older. Although she was a real trooper and was delighted to go, the journey took its toll. She’s still not quite back up to speed.
What happens physiologically when we are confronted with change, good or bad? Neuroscience explains our resistance to it — our brain initially considers change a possible threat to our survival.
Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a licensed clinical psychologist and neuropsychologist, noted in an NBC News article, "From an evolutionary standpoint we develop these neural pathways to adapt to live, so when we encounter change our brain shifts into a protective mode. It has to use energy from reserves and it doesn’t know, from that evolutionary standpoint, if the change is good for us or not. It doesn’t know if this change is a one-time deal or whether it needs to re-establish a routine. ‘Will it hurt me?’ A lot of red flags go up."
She continues, "If you stretch your brain passed its comfort zone, you’re opening the door to being receptive to other types of change."
So, it’s actually good for us to get out of our ruts, switch things up and challenge ourselves.
Not only does it stave over off cognitive impairments, we become more confident. We realize we are no longer stuck in the muck that we think we are. Once able to muster up enough hyperspeed and break through our habitual orbit, we find a whole new universe out there.
Then, there’s no going back. There’s also a rippling effect. Family systems theory teaches us when one person in the family changes, the whole system does as well.
Start with simple changes. Try using a different hand to eat with. Exercise in the morning instead of the evening. Notice how you feel. Surprised? Did you get a different result?
Apply it emotionally as well. Carlos Castaneda wrote, "Things don’t change, only the way you look at them." Currently, I’m cultivating changing my lens regarding a hurtful interaction. I’m viewing it now as an opportunity for practice. More human homework! It’s become my teacher on how to love bigger.
Whether it’s an external situation or internal dilemma that’s requiring our shape shifting, by improvising, adapting and overcoming we can, indeed, change.
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