Columnist Daniel Cantor Yalowitz: Consciously adapting to change in our lives

Daniel Cantor Yalowitz



Published: 09-24-2023 2:54 PM

Change, no matter how it comes about in our lives, is never easy. Not one day goes by without something (often significant) changing. Change is inevitable; it is the way of the world, and it is up to each one of us to adapt to it. When something or someone we are connected to and invested in changes, we, too, change — whether consciously or unconsciously.

As I write, the season has recently changed, with fall taking over from summer. Soon enough (perhaps already!) the leaves will change their colors; the trees become bare, and the end of gardening season is ever nearer. Just a bit further ahead on our calendars, we will be having off-year elections, and there may be changes in the governance of our city, School Committee, City Council, and more. (Of course, there will other elections, too, everywhere, in early November.). For sports enthusiasts, baseball season will soon morph into football, basketball, and hockey seasons. And on and on, so it goes.

On a personal note, I wish I had long ago learned one very basic truism about change: one of the very few things we have absolute power to change as individuals is our attitude — the way we view and go about our lives and the world. To acknowledge this, it seems to me, is also to understand that we have accountability and responsibility to deal with change and do whatever internal work we must to accept and adapt to it, whatever it is. What comes of this? Often, there is personal growth involved, hopefully enabling us to stretch ourselves to incorporate a positive attitude toward accepting change and possibly modifying our behavior and/or thinking to accommodate the change.

Not all change has to be dramatic and transformative. In fact, the numerous nuances of “small change” are more pervasive than major change in that micro changes occur far more frequently. For example, drilling on my street made me change the way I drive into town for a few days, a small change, but one I had to accommodate by allowing more time to get wherever I was going, and this was something I could not forget or else I would be late to a number of appointments, meetings, and dates with friends. Shopping today, I could not find the Greek yogurt that my household so enjoys. So, I changed brands this week, hoping my favorite will be back in stock next week. These are everyday events that serve to modify our behaviors, even our thinking, if only temporarily. Even though small, the small changes in our lives need our attention and focus.

One more thing about change: it is not usually easy. As human beings, most of us are creatures of routine and habit, and appreciate the regularity of events, people, and places in our lives. We become used to them, and, often without thinking, we appreciate, even covet some of them. When a change occurs that denies us these life experiences, other adjustments (attitude, behavior, thinking) must be made — often in ways we are not used to and/or don’t want. Have you ever experienced frustration or ambivalence or negativity when something occurs that you did not anticipate, or someone you were planning to meet is either late or a no-show? Many of us struggle to accept these momentary or temporary changes, let alone those changes that have a larger and longer imprint on and in our lives.

Life is not easy to manage; neither is change. As has been said, the only thing that is permanent in our lives is change. Think for a moment or two about how you typically react or respond to changes in your life. Is there a pattern of any sort that you are aware of? How we each respond to change depends not only on our attitude toward the event or experience that is being changed, but also what it is in particular that is shifting. As well, the magnitude of any change matters. For instance, the death of a parent or dear friend or child or even your household pet holds much more gravitas than if your mail delivery or daily newspaper comes later in the day. Therefore, we don’t necessarily respond to all changes in our life in the same way, but it is nonetheless significant to become more attuned to our approach to and perspective on change.

How do you respond to that very famous line from John Knowles’ book “A Separate Peace,” Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. (The more things change, the more they remain the same.)

It is a truism that change will continue to exist, and to affect our lives from birth through our very last breath. We must learn what we can from the changes in our lives, and hopefully grow from and through them.

Daniel Cantor Yalowitz writes a regular column in the Recorder. A developmental and intercultural psychologist, he has facilitated change in many organizations and communities around the world. He is former chairman of the Greenfield Human Rights Commission and his two most recent books are “Journeying with Your Archetypes” and “Reflections on the Nature of Friendship.” Reach out to him at