What about change?

Yesterday, I was talking with a friend about the changes happening in his life. While things seemed to be moving forward for him, he was not sure if they were heading in a positive or negative direction. This made me reflect on the nature of change and our mental constructs about it.

Let us follow for a little bit the argument of positive versus negative change. In order to evaluate if a certain change is positive or negative we have to have a system for measuring it, right? And in order to do that we have to establish how we perceive change: is it a result, or a process? Well, here is the trick that our mind plays on us. Even though all definitions of change point to the process nature of it, we tend to evaluate it as a result. Our brain likes predictability and, in order to obtain it, it forms judgments about almost everything, even about the nature of changes happening in our lives. This is the point when the process becomes a result. Is change going according to plan? If so, change is positive or good. Does it provide the expected outcomes? If not, change is negative or bad. Yet, in this case, most often we fail to see all the things we’ve learned along the way (which sometimes may prove more valuable than the actual forecasted benefits). In the quest for predictability, we fail to see the polarity and the ongoing nature of change. Change is both good and bad, positive and negative, and constantly occurring.

Photo by Alexas Fotos on Pexels.com

Change is the only constant.


For a long time, I too was concerned with the positive and negative aspects of change. However, what I found after many years of turmoil, was that, positive and negative are not very useful mental constructs regarding change. From an evolutionary perspective, they have no real meaning. Life does whatever it takes to perpetuate itself, without pausing to reflect on individual happiness (on this one, I am with Yuval Noah Harari – Sapiens). Likewise, from a spiritual perspective, the only purpose of the spirit is growth and evolution. Nothing is ever waisted, every experience (be it a success or a failure) will find a way to inform a future one. Yes, some actions have painful consequences, yes, we make mistakes, but they are part of life. Without nothing to compare to, we wouldn’t know how good times feel like. From a learning perspective, change has only a positive potential, even if some lessons are harder to learn. Yet, resisting the natural process of change is what makes us perceive it as negative. Any alteration of a good or positive state makes us fear change and, in doing so, rob it of its potential to create something better. Indeed, embracing change is an act of faith and courage. Courage to go through it, even if uncertainty is always present, and faith that its benefits will be revealed, even if not right away.

After going through so many (sometimes uncomfortable) changes in my life I have come to see change (and life) as a river. Along the way, its wide riverbed could narrow and widen again, it will make room for multiple and diverse habitats, it will encounter obstacles and alter its course, and in the end it will become a mere droplet in a sea or ocean. As I navigate the river, I know that the breathtaking beauty I’m seeing today might not be there tomorrow. The best I can do is to navigate the river with a constant wonder of the present moment (be it good or bad, positive or negative). I don’t know how the landscape will be later on, I only now that the river will never stop flowing and, in order to arrive safely at my destination, I have to navigate according to the river’s natural conditions. 🙂

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