The art and science of change, with author Brad Stulberg

Produced and written by Andrea Brody

“ Change is something that we're always in conversation with, that we participate in and the goal is to help shape a new normal,” writer and author Brad Stulberg examines why we both embrace and resist change. Graphics by Gabby Quarante.

Change is constant. Over the course of a lifetime, things will always be in flux: we age, we switch jobs, we develop new skills or characteristics. Some of us marry or move great distances. Change is often subtle, slow, and unnoticed; or sometimes, as with the weather and nature, it can be obvious.  

“Nature is constantly reordering itself,” says author and life coach Brad Stulberg. “Think about evolution: A forest is never the same forest twice. It's constantly reordering itself.”

Though change can be remarkable, it’s also challenging, uncomfortable, and often met with resistance and even panic. A need for stability and groundedness can often run contrary to an exploration of the unknown.  Stulberg offers some simple techniques to working with a world that is always evolving. 

“We have to be both rugged and flexible — it's not either/or,” he says. “I think that people far too often think of these as opposites, when in fact they're complements.

“The best way to skillfully navigate change is to know your core attributes — the parts of you that crave stability — but to [also] realize that the only way to achieve that stability is by changing [and] by flexibly applying those core parts of yourself.”

Stulberg explains that clinging to the familiar is a common reaction, but that navigating our discomfort is a healthier response. 

“Whenever we go through a change, two common paths prevail: One is very reactionary, which is [that] we feel an emotion, and then we do,” he says. “The other is much more responsive: we're deliberate, we're more effortful, we're slower, we're more thoughtful. We very rarely regret responding to a situation; we often regret reacting rashly.”

Having a flexible sense of self, Stulberg says, is crucial to mental health — and maybe even our success.

“By diversifying our sense of self, we become so much more robust to change, because when change occurs in one area of our life, we can lean on those others for stability — it’s those other areas that give me a sense of ruggedness and stability,” he explains.  

Is it possible to change without abandoning too much of ourselves? Stulberg says that the key lies in our core values, which shape and guide the paths of our identities. Tapping into those, he says, are what can allow us to truly zero in on what matters to us most. 

“There is no data that shows that tying your identity to one pursuit leads to better results in that pursuit,” he says. “If anything, there's some data that states the opposite, because you become so fragile. There's fascinating data on entrepreneurs that shows that those that keep their day job end up having more success than those that quit their day job and go all in.”

Delve deeper into life, philosophy, and what makes us human by joining the Life Examined discussion group on Facebook.

In Master Of Change: How To Excel When Everything Is Changing - Including You, author Brad Stulberg explains that the key to transformation lies in our core values, which shape and guide the paths of our identities.




Andrea Brody