If we could anticipate the outcomes of our actions, we could become wildly successful in all our endeavors, immensely wealthy, and ecstatic with our romantic relationships ‘til death do us part. Sounds good, huh? But, though some of us devote a lifetime analyzing the market, testing products, and researching every facet of life to predict positive outcomes, no one has been able to master looking into the future—at least not 100%— since it never stands still. Centuries ago, Greek philosopher Herclitus said, “There is nothing permanent except change.”

We can increase our odds at ensuring our relative success by applying reason and educated guesses, calculating the odds, and even using our gut instincts, but these methods aren’t infallible. Since the future is outside our control, the only way we can survive and possibly succeed is to learn to adapt to life’s inherent change.

Scientist and philosopher Stephen Hawking (1942-2018) wrote, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” We are the only life form on the planet with the ability to reason. Reason is defined as the capacity for consciously making sense of things, establishing and verifying facts, applying logic, and changing or justifying practices, institutions, and beliefs based on new or existing information.

Let’s be real for a moment. How many of us use our capacity for reason to make every small decision in life, or even a large one? We don’t have time. Besides, it would drive us bonkers. At the same time, many of us are frazzled in trying to keep up with every little change or advancement that life throws our way: We must wear the latest fashions, buy the most cutting-edge technology, and follow every passing fad—all so we don’t appear behind the times to our peers. While impulse buying may boost our morale, habitual collecting of clothing, gadgets, etc. can lead to disaster.

Most of us alter the tactics we use in our approach to life in order to keep life interesting—avoiding the boredom that occurs when we resist change. But before we deplete our energy and run our finances amuck, we need to decide what ‘s most important to our survival. Fads and material trinkets are low on the priority list. First, we need to think about our values. What do we want and—even more essentially—what do we need most?

Adapting to changes that come naturally with time are generally more crucial to our survival than manmade changes, which often involve planned obsolescence. The good news is that any change—no matter how serious or daunting it seems on the surface—also carries a potential for the fun and exhilaration of new adventure. It depends entirely on our attitude: If it’s one of acceptance, curiosity, and an I got this point of view, we can achieve far more than we might expect in turning what may appear to be problems into opportunities.

A can do attitude is vital for self-sufficiency—the key to survival for every woman as well as every man. In a nutshell, this means being able to adapt to the barrage of changes that can affect our lives, including our financial resources. This is just as crucial if we marry and have children rather than remain single. While it’s always good to work out financial plans with our mate, the best-laid plans can be subject to unforeseen change, such as a husband’s loss of work, divorce, illness, or death.

Here are some ways women can prepare ourselves to adapt to change before it happens:

  • Cultivate a skill, obtain an education, in order to be employable. This is not a one-time achievement, but an ongoing process that demands continual updating to adapt to the changing market and remain relevant.
  • Create a savings account and put some money aside on a regular basis. Don’t touch it, unless there’s an emergency and even then only use what’s absolutely necessary.
  • Network with other women to learn where opportunities can be found at any given time. A referral can be the best key to your employment future.

If, despite our best efforts, we find ourselves stagnant in our jobs, or unhappy in our marriage or relationship, it’s important that we be honest about the fact that things aren’t working in a productive and satisfactory way. This requires self-love and self-respect. To ignore that something is hurting us is to allow a stressful situation to undermine our health and wellbeing. Sadly, many of us remain in a downward spiral of toxic circumstances out of fear of the unknown—reluctant to admit that we don’t seem able to effectively manage its harmful influence.

Rather than put our heads in the proverbial sand, we need to recognize that bouts of recurring stress signal the exact time and circumstance we need to be adaptable, doing all that’s in our power to make a necessary change—turning it into a positive, life-affirming transition toward increased autonomy. Accepting this challenge is precisely what promotes our growth and empowerment. It’s time for women to adapt, survive and succeed on our own terms, instead of condemning ourselves to become passive victims of change.

Mary Kathryn “M.K.”  Jones

Writer, Founder of Women Who Walk the Talk™