Navigating Change Gracefully

December 12, 2019  |  No Comments  |  by Jeff McQuilkin  |  Blog

“A change is gonna come.” – Sam Cooke

“Change is the only constant in life.” –Heraclitus

Benjamin Franklin is famously quoted as saying, “There are only two certainties in life—death and taxes.”

I don’t want to contradict the iconic Mr. Franklin…but the fact is, he was wrong on this point. Rather, he counted wrong. In my view, there are actually three certainties in life: Death, taxes…and change.

I want to drive this point home: Change is inevitable. The reason I can say this so confidently (besides from my own experience) is that our very lives on this earth are in constant motion—which means everything is subject to change. Everything.

Think about the following:

  • We live on a rock that is hurtling through space at over 66,000 miles an hour.
  • That rock is spinning as it travels, so we are also spinning in circles at a rate of about 1000 miles per hour.
  • The spinning produces day and night, while our orbit around the sun creates four seasons.
  • The weather is always changing—and now, thanks in part to mankind’s abuse of the planet, the overall weather patterns are also changing.
  • Every day on earth, billions of people are interacting with each other’s lives, and every interaction creates a new cause-and-effect scenario.
  • Even our bodies are a constant death and rebirth of cells, to the point that you are made up of an entirely different set of cells than you were 10 years ago. You are, quite literally, a different physical being than you were in 2009. You have changed.

With all this motion and change happening around us, is it any wonder that change is inevitable? It’s part of the very fabric of our universe.

Sometimes change hurts; sometimes it feels great. Sometimes we see it coming; sometimes it creeps up on us and takes us by surprise. Sometimes we initiate change because we’re bored and stagnant. But one way or another, change happens.

So what’s your point?

Here’s why I’m rambling on about this: People who struggle most in life are the ones who are most resistant to change. The people who do best in life are those who can anticipate change and embrace it as a gift, rather than resisting it.

Let’s boil it down to one word: Flexibility. The key to navigating change is being flexible.

New Yorkers will appreciate this example: If you’ve ever ridden the subway here, you know that you’re likely going to experience some jostling. Those trains rattle, squeak and lurch this way and that way as they race through the tunnels. You never know when the train is going to lurch. If you’re standing up and you’re not holding on to something, you’re probably going to be thrown. The key to riding the subways is not to stand rigidly, because if you do, you’ll probably come away with aches and strains, and maybe even injury. After a while riding these trains, you learn how to be flexible and loose—to let your body move with the train so you can more easily absorb those unexpected jolts. You get used to the movement.

And that’s what I want to convey here: Change is simply movement. The more flexible you are with the various movements of life, the more you’ll get along with change when it comes.

Bringing It Home

Let’s look at another example, one that’s a bit more specific: Changing jobs or careers. The average working adult these days will change careers 5-7 times during the course of their lives. That means you work at the same place for 30 years and retire, you’re now the exception to the rule. Being between jobs can be challenging, even discouraging. It can make you afraid. But in the big picture—it’s just change. And once again, your key to navigating this change successfully is not to resist, but to adapt. Be open to new possibilities, including ones you hadn’t thought of before.

This whole idea of embracing change is a cornerstone of my practice. I got into career coaching because after a number of years as the head of HR for a firm here in NYC, my company merged with another and my job became redundant. I didn’t get laid off the next day, but I could see the change was happening. I had to make a choice: I could brace myself, freeze up and get fearful of my future, or I could remember the words of my late mother: “When are you going to take control?” Rather than try to find another HR position, I chose to use my people skills in another way—and Giraffes Consulting was born. This is why I’m always repeating the mantra: “Change happens. Take control!”

We all go through change, but that doesn’t mean you have to go through it alone. If you’re facing the specific change of needing to find a new job or career, I can help you hone some practical skills not only to help you find the job you’re looking for, but to help you embrace the change and see the possibilities. If you’d like some help, email me at, or call me for a free consultation at 646-320-1126.

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