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6 Principles for Navigating Challenges in Life

Constant adaptation is the key to lifelong endurance

Source | | Brad Stulberg

The world around us is constantly changing. And as the coronavirus pandemic has shown, much of this change is outside of our control. In an average adult life, a person experiences 36 significant disruptions, from switching jobs, to moving, to facing a significant injury or illness, to having a child, to losing a loved one. As the old adage goes, the only constant is change.

Even so, change, disruption, and disorder remain uncomfortable concepts for most people. Yet we can learn to survive—and even thrive—in their midst. If this seems unimaginable, it’s because we’ve been going about it all wrong. Common pitfalls around change include attempting to avoid it, refusing to acknowledge it, actively resisting it, sacrificing agency, and striving to get back to the way things were. The last point is particularly timely, as evidenced by the countless headlines pontificating on how long it will take to “return to normal” after the pandemic.

These pitfalls didn’t come out of thin air. They are largely a consequence of homeostasis, the prevailing model of change since it was first conceptualized 160 years ago by a French doctor named Claude Bernard. Homeostasis says that living systems resist change and desire constancy above all else. It views change as a cycle of order, disorder, and then order. It posits that the goal is to return to stability: to get back, or at least close, to where you started as swiftly as possible.

There’s only one problem: homeostasis isn’t all that accurate when it comes to how change actually unfolds.

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