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  • Writer's picturelindsey lee

adaptability in uncertain times

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

“Ahhh blissful uncertainty!” - said no one ever.

How many times in your life have you had to wait for answers? Endure ‘not knowing’ while things outside of your control reached resolution? Attempt patience while the universe worked itself out? My guess is a lot. And my guess is that this year is testing your capacity & tolerance for this challenging act of waiting, enduring, and attempting patience. It’s certainly (ha) testing mine.

The world right now is prompting us to assemble our greatest wisdom while simultaneously disassembling our egos -- our need to control and fix. After all, we are living through herstoric times -- a global pandemic, the human rights movement of Black Lives Matter, and an election that feels more pivotal than ever for our country, our rights, our climate, and our health.

These times have precipitated an essential lesson: How do we balance our strength in conviction and ability to adapt? How do we both fight for AND face reality?

So many times this year, I asked myself the question: what can I impact? I’ve felt both indispensable and powerless in the same moment. It’s like when you look up at an expansive, starry night sky and feel simultaneously small and big at the same time. How do I matter amidst all this wonder? Wait, I *MUST* matter if I’m here amidst all this wonder!

When we try to predict the future in our heads, we often make it look like the past. We want it to resemble what we already know. We want the future to color within the lines of our expectations so we don't have to deal with the adverse effects of discomfort, anxiety, or the real kicker -- adaptation.

I’ve become fairly obsessed with scientist and Standford professor Andrew Huberman, who has shared his expertise on neuroplasticity on a few excellent podcasts. He posits that 2020 has been so mentally taxing for us because our brains RELY on algorithms. In fact, the brain is typically focused on 3 things: duration, path and outcome e.g. what am I doing, where am I going, and what’s the point?We are constantly trying to form patterns out of what we know and do because it’s less work for our brains. And when we have to forego the patterning, when we encounter true uncertainty, it can simply be... EXHAUSTING.

In uncertain times, are you trying to form the unknown into the known? Are you trying to fit a shapeless experience into something you've seen, heard, felt, or influenced before?

Adaptability requires a sweet humility, doesn't it? It's about how we can seek to improve what we don't know instead of proving what we do. Adaptability prompts us to do the inner work of releasing our grip and evolving our knowledge at the same time. It requires us to trust that the current unknown will eventually be known so we may as well be our most flexible selves in the process.

And it’s important to note that that flexibility is NOT passivity. Flexibility offers your nervous system some reprieve & gentleness. It’s your ability to declare & believe inwardly: No matter what happens, I will be okay. I have agency over my response and state of being. Adaptability necessitates an act: Adapt. Pivot. Assess what’s in front of you and source the best new course of action.

Ironically, I believe we are defined by how we act and respond in undefined moments. When we travel the less familiar parts of the world [aww, remember traveling?], we attempt to go with the flow, learn, and laugh when things go awry. When we lose our jobs, our plans, and our sense of interconnection, maybe we adapt with our strongest forces of gratitude and acceptance to overpower temptations to self-victimize and complain. When the collective doors of justice & equality get swung wide open, maybe we step forward and do our best to listen & act instead of assume & recoil.

Today, I challenge you: let uncertainty guide you to inner sources of strength & flexibility. Create new patterns out of new knowledge. Claim agency over your response and state of wellbeing. Adapt gracefully with informed action.

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