As we explored last week, human-beings have a pretty fascinating and complex relationship to change. Sometimes we find ourselves in distress or doubt from an unexpected disruption. Other times, we might desperately crave change, but struggle to really kickstart — or sustain — a shift within ourselves or surroundings. Such is life, as the old saying goes!
We are all walking contradictions, so making better friends with change almost always begins with a little acceptance and self-compassion.
Now within these quirky contradictions, there’s one thing we often overlook in the face of change. We’re so much more than creatures of habit. We’re also creatures of adaptation… And we don’t give ourselves enough credit.
Cognitive scientists see this play out in the research. Human beings regularly underestimate their ability to navigate change! One aspect of this phenomenon is now known as identity foreclosure, where from our adolescent years (and often carrying over into adult life), we can become very settled within a specific identity.
Here, these fixed ideas or beliefs prevent us from dialling up curiosity and exploration in all aspects of our development, also making us believe that our core identity is more or less ‘formed’ for the years to come… Often without our conscious awareness.
Think about this for yourself in this present moment. How much do you think you’ll change in the next 5 years? How much do you feel you’ve changed, from 2018 to now?
Research participants in a series of 2013 psychological studies were asked similar questions and the results are pretty fascinating: “young people, middle-aged people, and older people all believed they had changed significantly in the past, but would change little in the future.” Did this ring true for your initial answers, too?
No matter who we are, or where we’ve been, we’re all a little guilty of underestimating our capacity for change — despite having wonderful evidence or ‘proof’ of growth within our own life stories. And when limiting beliefs creep into our mindset, any new event or unfamiliar experience can feel threatening, terrifying or even impossible to face.
The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way. We’ve got the power to change the story here (no pun intended 😉).
Modern neuroscience shows us that our brains are constantly wiring new pathways to help us adapt to fresh challenges, and the more we believe we’re capable of change, the more malleable we become with the process… And the better we become at adopting a growth mindset. What’s more, we can choose to see any experience of ‘change navigation’ in our lives — big or small — as evidence of our courage, curiosity and creativity.
From global pandemics down to the tiniest of daily shifts, there’s no doubt about it. Human beings are incredibly resourceful, and adaptable to change. We wouldn’t be here if we weren’t! So, whilst we may never actually arrive at a place in life where navigating change feels easy, we can always take comfort in knowing that we get stronger, and that our potential for growth and change is infinite.
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