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The challenge of change

Professor Stephen Joseph explores how you can adapt to and harness change in a positive way
Connect News and views The challenge of change

The last few years has seen much upheaval in the world and most of us have in some way or other been faced with the challenge of change. No one welcomes adversity, and the change it brings can be difficult, but it can also bring new opportunities if we are able to deal with it positively. 


Words: Professor Stephen Joseph, School of Education 

In a year in which we've all had to rapidly adjust to changes to our lives as a result of COVID-19, I'd like to share something of my research to help you to adapt and harness change in a positive way and apply this to your professional and personal life. As we all come to terms with the reality of the pandemic and make adjustments to our daily routines, you may find yourself starting to reflect on what really matters to you. 

You may know of Nietzsche's dictum: "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger." But can adversity really make us stronger? 

Maybe stronger is not the right word; but adversity can certainly wake us up to what really matters to us, propel us to become more true to ourselves, take on new challenges, and help us view life from a different perspective. In my book What Doesn't Kill Us, I describe how after experiencing a challenging event, people often report how they come to value their friends and family more, feel an increased sense of compassion for others, and a longing for more intimate relationships. Sometimes people also feel that they have developed in wisdom, personal strength and self-knowledge. Often people describe changes in their life philosophy, and how they have found a fresh appreciation for each new day and become more able to live in the present. 

Think about the questions below and find examples of things you have done that illustrate your answers.

It's useful to take some time out to reflect on these questions, to notice and nurture your personal growth as it takes root. Perhaps it will be about discovering resources in yourself that you were not aware of, or looking more appreciatively at your relationships with others, rebalancing your time between work and leisure, or maybe discovering new ideas about how you want to live.

Use these questions to reflect on how to adapt to change in your own life

  1. Are there ways in which your relationships with family and friends have been strengthened and deepened in intimacy? 

  2. Are there ways in which you have found a different perspective on life with new opportunities? 

  3. Are there things you did that showed you strengths within yourself that you didn't know you had? 

  4. Are there ways in which you have found a greater understanding of life and how to live it? 

  5. Are there ways in which you find yourself being more grateful for what you have and for those around you?