How often do you adapt to change?

Today is March 4 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you adapt to change?” Navigating the chaos and practicing the art of living well involves adapting to change. As English theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking observed “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” He reminded others to "Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don't just give up." Hawking managed a remarkable career while suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease for decades until his death in 2018. He was an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author who was director of research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge at the time of his death.


Much like Hawking, Sam Bloom was forced to adapt if she was going to go back into the water. An avid and accomplished surfer, Bloom fell 40 feet from an observation deck while vacationing in Thailand shattering her T6 and T7 vertebrae, leaving her paralyzed. Bloom needed to work through the physical pain as well as the depression that she experienced being paralyzed. Once she did, however, and adapted herself to her new life situation, she returned to water sports. She took up competitive paracanoeing, and placed 13th in the world and won two Australian titles before representing her country at the 2015 World Championships in Italy. As a member of the Australian Adaptive Surf Team, she won Gold for Australia at both the 2019 and 2020 World Para Surfing Championships. As Bloom wrote on Facebook "Getting back into surfing has been a game changer for me. It’s meant I’ve been able to focus on what I can do instead of what I can’t and it’s brought a lot of happiness back to my life.”


For Hawking and Bloom, life thrust upon them him an illness and accident that forced both to adapt to the change their bodies were experiencing. While navigating the chaos life will often present opportunities where you have little choice but to adapt. For most people who navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well, however, they made a conscious decision to adapt to change as they look to transition from their current self to a future self.


One reason why people find it difficult to adapt to change is called the Abstinence Violation Effect defined as viewing behavior change in all or nothing terms. For example, wanting to lose 20 pounds but only losing five so quitting seems like the only option, as opposed to exercising the self-discipline needed to adapt to the change and keep going. As Dr. Mary McNaughton-Cassill noted in a January 6, 2021 Psychology Today article people should consider recognizing that “behavior change is an ongoing process and should create a plan for coping with occasional slips. For example if you know you are likely to overeat on a holiday, you could adjust your plan to prioritize weight maintenance rather than loss during the break and then go back to dieting the following week.” Adapting to change or changing behavior does not need to be perfect. The adage “progress over perfection” should be applied here.


In the Chicago based alternative rock band Wilco’s 1999 song “A Shot in the Arm” on their album summerteeth they sing about change:


The ashtray says

You were up all night

When you went to bed

With your darkest mind

Your pillow wept

And covered your eyes

And you finally slept

While the sun caught fire

You've changed

What you once were isn’t what you want to be any more


That last line “What you once were isn’t what you want to be any more” is perhaps one of the most common elements found among those who navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well. Those who navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well decided to not be who they once were. They decided to adapt. They decided to change. They decided to be someone new. Sometimes like thrusts that upon us as was the case with Sam Bloom. A terrible accident changed her life. She was forced to change and accept that who she became was not who she was. Often, however, individuals decide on their own to stop being who they once were. It may take a long time. Years even. But the decision, one made, can alter your life path, and help you navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well.


How often do you say to yourself “who I am is no longer who I want to be?” If you are attempting to adapt to change and stumble do you stay down or get up?


How often do you adapt to change?