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A Slight Change of Plans – an Interview with Dr. Maya Shankar

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Not everything in life will always go according to plan, but that doesn’t have to be a negative thing. I recently interviewed cognitive scientist and podcast host Dr. Maya Shankar about how a change of plan affects us and who we become when we encounter it. Here are some of the top takeaways:

Don’t fall prey to identity foreclosure

People often foreclose on their identity prematurely, without ever having fully explored other ways they could be. The truth is, identity is malleable. To better adapt to life’s changes, you shouldn’t exclusively attach your identity to a single pursuit, such as sports or music. Instead, work to uncover where your true passion lies. What is it about a certain pursuit that you enjoy? What lights you up? What propels you forward? If you can figure out what really makes you tick, you’ll discover where else in your life you can express that.

You possess the tools to navigate change

Dealing with change can often feel intimidating. It’s important to remember, however, that even if the specifics of the moment are unprecedented, you’ve done this rodeo many times, just by virtue of being human! You don’t have to go through a particular experience to know how to respond to it. Instead, look back on your life and remember how you navigated all types of change in the past. You should also look to other people’s experiences and mine wisdom from their stories, even if they aren’t exactly like yours.

Change your relationship with uncertainty

As humans, we tend to dislike uncertainty, but it is possible to build a stronger identity with it. To alter your relationship with change, try to identify yourself as someone who excels during times of uncertainty, blossoms when encountering challenge and flourishes in the face of ambiguity. Things won’t happen overnight of course – you can’t just give yourself a label and transform your personality. But, over time, it’s possible to cultivate a mindset that, instead of running away from uncertainty and change, you pride yourself as the type of person who can thrive in it.

As Dr. Maya Shankar said, “Change in one area of our lives can often have profound spill-over effects into other areas of our lives that we simply can’t predict at the outset.” The key to positively handling change is to avoid labeling it as simply ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and instead to try to approach it with humility and an open mind. Do this and you’ll become more resilient and you’ll experience growth, too. To learn more, listen to the latest episode of “It’s a Good Life”.

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