2023 held some massive change for me. I became an author and an empty nester. My husband opened a third project comprised of three different business, with two new partners.
My titles, roles, and daily life changed immensely. But more importantly, I realize how I changed. As I became a more active participant in my personal evolution, I sought out more awareness, peeling the layers back to unearth even more about who I am at my core, and living as that person. I identified my core values and established more boundaries. I am living out, and sharing, my faith more fearlessly. I also focused on moving toward more compassion and forgiveness, and away from judgement and self righteousness.
This kind of changing is not easy. It is really painful to look at the yucky parts of yourself, but honest self-reflection is a vital part of living authentically. Personally, while none of this was, or is, perfect in execution, I feel more open and curious than I do shameful. I am no “master,” but I feel like I can ride the waves of change with more awareness.
Instead of right versus wrong, I focused a lot on learning to adopt what Brad Stulberg calls, “rugged flexibility.” Stulberg states “the goal is not to be so rugged that you never change. The goal is not be so flexible that you passively surrender to the whims of life. The goal is to marry these qualities.” He defines rugged flexibility as “a gritty endurance, an anti-fragility that not only withstands change, but thrives in the midst.”
To be able to navigate the never-ending disorder, and reorder, of life with intentional presence.
So much impacts this awareness, and our willingness, or unwillingness, to open up to experiencing and accepting change: our subconscious and conscious insecurities, need for self-protection and preservation, fear, uncertainty, past trauma, and a strong desire for control. There are many other roots to these individual tendencies, but for today I want to explore change in itself.
Change is hard. Change is good. Change just is. It is happening whether you acknowledge it or not. It is absolutely inevitable. Humans and environments are constantly changing, so all parts of our lives are too.
Therefore, learning how to navigate change through rugged flexibility will positively impact your relationships, work, spiritual journey, training, and other hobbies. It has helped me immensely.
A few simple tips on how to become more ruggedly flexible (if you want to dig in further to this concept, I recommend Stulberg’s book, Master of Change):
- Acknowledge that change is constant, and expect it to be hard on some level. Not in the way that you try to make it not hard (aka- control), but with a curious anticipation and acceptance.
- Identify your core values so that you can use them for stability as things change. When it comes to goal setting, it is also important to know why you are showing up to the process. These things give you something to cling to when staying thoughtfully grounded through change.
- Learn to respond and not react to change. Separate what you can control (your reactions), and what you cannot (the actions of others, and basically everything else). Focus on curiosity over control.
- Elect to do hard things that require (lower stakes) adaptation to change. The more you have success, the easier it will be to navigate change when things feel more out of your control.
- Lean into humility, surrender, routines, compassion, and asking for help. You don’t need to figure everything out. Period. And you surely don’t need to do it alone.
As a longtime triathlete and coach, for the last 17 years I have chosen training and racing as a practical method to practice taking on changing circumstances— so much that I wrote a book about it. I have found (without having such a concise term to define it), that rugged flexibility is vital to actualizing potential in endurance sports. No matter how much you plan and do “all of the right things,” you need to know that everything is constantly changing. And, you still need to expect it to be hard. This allows for you to change, to adapt, and to thrive. In racing, this looks like less time spent lamenting on the struggle, and more asking yourself what you need right now, throughout all of the change.
Everything has changed, in so many ways, over my 43 years of life that it would be just plain silly to think that it won’t continue to be the case of the rest of my time here on earth.
I will keep practicing rugged flexibility, some through my own doing, and some through responding to circumstances completely out of my control. I hope you can do the same.
Nothing is certain—other than death, taxes, (and change). Right? 😉