Life is Dynamic, Adjust Accordingly

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There was a short period of time (about 7 months) during my young adult life that was very stressful and challenging. It came while serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Southern California. I was learning new things at a rapid pace, and meeting new people with high frequency (which was contrary to my somewhat introverted ways at the time). The trials seemed fierce and rampant. There was unwelcomed change at every turn. To be honest, I was overwhelmed and uncertain as to whether or not I could carry on.

It was during this time that I met a man named Jed in Northridge, California. Although I was only around this man for a short time, he had a lasting impact on my life and ongoing perspective. Jed had been through some difficulties himself, and though he had reason to be disgruntled and pessimistic about life, he was somehow perpetually positive. Like really, really positive. Like almost annoyingly positive (mostly because I just couldn’t relate to his positivity myself). The dude seemed to always have a smile on his face. All the while, my smiles were hard to come by. I was fully committed to the missionary work I was taking part in, but I was having great difficulty dealing with the many drastic changes and challenges I was encountering, coupled with the fact that I couldn’t control most of them.

Back in the day (around 500 BC or so), the Greek philosopher Heraclitus was quoted as saying “Change is the only constant in life” or “There is nothing more constant than change”  or “There is nothing permanent except change” (depending on which source you click on when you Google his alleged quote). Regardless of the exact verbiage, the principle behind his quote is spot-on and it is undeniable truth. Life is full of inevitable change. No matter who you are, no matter what you do, change is ready to pounce on you when you least expect it (or even when you do expect it), and change usually presents challenges for us. This reality is one thing that we all share in common with each other. It’s how we react to change (and its accompanying challenges) that really sets us apart.

Now back to my experiences in Northridge, California, including my interactions with Jed. As previously stated, I was not responding well to changes and challenges at that time in my life. It would show on my face and in my overall body language. I wasn’t angry, but I was clearly down and frustrated. I had a strong tendency to complain whenever something didn’t go my way (or the way I hoped/expected it to go). Jed was armed with a little quote of his own that he would fire away at me when the timing seemed right. Whenever I would get perturbed at my circumstances, and whenever I would express my discontent verbally, Jed would calmly reply by saying “Life is dynamic, adjust accordingly.” I recall when he first said that to me. His words immediately caught my attention, but I also thought…  1) Who is this guy to brush off my afflictions in such a nonchalant manner with some generic saying?, and 2) What does that even mean? But without giving his words much more thought at the time, I set them aside and moved on.

Well, after I heard Jed repeat that saying to me several more times in the ensuing weeks and months that followed (surely as a response to more of my complaining), I decided to ponder those words a bit more deeply. Life is dynamic, adjust accordingly. The word Dynamic can be defined as:  continuously changing or developing, or characterized by constant change or activity. That definition sums up the life experience pretty well in my opinion. The word Adjust can be defined as: the orientation or adaptation of oneself, or to change in order to fit in, conform, or keep on going. With those definitions in place, I came to a more enlightened understanding of what Jed was implying. We must be flexible and willing to adapt to the constant changes and challenges we face in life if we want to be able to move past them. Or, to put it another way, we need to come up with solutions to the ongoing challenges we face in life. Otherwise they are going to beat us down and hinder our progress. And that, my friends, is a true story.

solutions to problems
Beipanjiang Bridge Duge (Duge Bridge) in China is one of the highest bridges in the world. Its impressive height and length allows commuters to pass from one side to the other despite the intimidating and seemingly impassable canyon below. The symbolism is undeniable. No matter how wide the crevasse, no matter how deep the chasm, no matter how rugged life’s terrain, there is usually a proper solution. Like the construction of this bridge, we can uncover the solutions to most of our challenges in life with ingenuity, determination and perseverance.

We must be adaptive. We cannot remain stationery when the changing tides ebb and flow. Furthermore, we cannot continually swim against life’s currents. Doing so will leave us frustrated and extremely exhausted. Sometimes (often times) it makes much more sense to turn around and swim with the current, or at least swim diagonally across the current to get back to the shore. Those are solutions, and they will keep us afloat and ultimately get us back to a safe place. We must seek and find such solutions throughout our lives, as there are solutions to be found for nearly all of the obstacles we will ever encounter. If we fail to seek and find solutions to the unexpected changes and challenges we face, then we will metaphorically drown in the sea of our own rigid ways. To state it simply, being adaptive and solution-driven will allow us to successfully go with life’s flow.

To further accentuate this point, I’d like to use a relevant baseball analogy I learned back in my playing days. As a hitter, you are often instructed to look for a fastball (or any high velocity pitch such as a cutter or slider), then adjust to off speed pitches (such as a curveball or a changeup). The theory behind this is that if you look for the pitch(es) that you have less time to react to, then you will have a greater capability to adjust to and hit (or take) the slower pitches that you have more time to react to. It may make even more sense when you think about the flip-side of that hitting approach. If you are looking for a slower off speed pitch, then it is very unlikely that you are going to be able to catch up to a fastball to hit it by the time that you actually realize that it’s a fastball instead of an off speed pitch. It will likely blow right by you before you have a chance to swing. So the solution to that problem is to think fastball then adjust to the off speed pitch, which will give you ample time to react properly. There is one thing I know for certain, and that is the fact that life is going to throw all of us lots of curveballs. It’s okay for us to develop a strategy or a vision for what we want to happen or what we expect to happen (the fastball). But we need to be flexible. We need to be ready and willing to adjust to whatever life throws at us (including the curveballs).

I currently work as a project manager for my full-time gig. Problems arise all the time. It’s literally my job to come up with solutions to changing circumstances. I feel that I have a very strong talent for seeing the end from the beginning, which in relation to my job means that I’m good at foreseeing future issues and remedying those problems ahead of time. I’m good at finding flaws in my projects and helping to provide solutions before those potential problems become real existing problems. However, I’m not nearly as effective in this regard when an issue (or a change) arises mid-project. I sometimes get flustered when I have a short time to make an important decision, or when lots of issues hit at once. I want more time to be able to think and react in my own time, but I sometimes do not have the luxury of additional time. That’s when my tendency to complain begins to resurface, and I become frustrated. Instead of trying to come up with a proper solution, I sometimes have a tendency to swim against the current. I fight against the necessary changes, or I avoid the challenges in hopes that someone else will resolve them, or that they will magically resolve themselves. I have learned from ongoing experience that these tactics do not end well. The idle approach leads to me becoming a victim of the circumstance instead of taking control of the circumstance by determining and applying a viable solution.

The same holds true in all aspects of life. Change isn’t going to go away, and life’s challenges aren’t going to resolve themselves. It is important for us to accept the fact that things are going to continually happen to us that we don’t expect and/or that we can’t fully control. That’s just how life rolls (or, as another man I met in California used to casually say in the face of adversity, “That’s the way the cookie crumbles. That’s the way the Mercedes-Benz.”). What we can control is how we respond to changes and challenges. Instead of complaining (often me), instead of surrendering (not often me), instead of becoming defeated (sometimes me), we can make an active choice to fight the good fight and strive to overcome the adversity. To do so, we must face our challenges head on, ponder our options, and determine/apply our own solutions whenever possible. That’s how we will be able to adjust to a life that is relentlessly dynamic.

Note to Self: Stop letting challenges control your life. If the circumstance is something that you can’t control, then brush it off as much as possible and move on. If the circumstance is something that you can control, then apply a viable solution and move past the challenge. Keep in mind that the best solution(s) may sometimes come through other people.

Proactively Me Challenge # 3 | The Solution Challenge:

Pinpoint one big challenge/obstacle you are currently facing in your life, contemplate your options, and then take action to implement the best solution that will allow you to effectively overcome that challenge/obstacle.

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