The first few days of 2021 have already shown us that we’ve got another challenging year ahead. Lockdown restrictions have been intensified in some countries and infection rates are increasing. The second wave shouldn’t be a surprise. We’ve known it was likely to happen and even be worse than the first wave. But, predictably, many people are angry. The day after the new lockdown was announced, our neighbourhood WhatsApp group was filled with messages calling it “bullshit.” And my social media feed once again exploded with claims that the pandemic was a hoax.
Many of us respond to threatening changes in our lives with a kind of trauma response. Our subconscious defences kick in and we instinctively fall into fight, flight, freeze, or fawn responses. We may resist what we’re facing, refuse to change, and ignore safety guidelines. Some of us may get angry at those who disagree with our responses. Others may deny reality and pretend that nothing is happening. While still others may become hopeless and give up trying to escape what is believed to be inevitable.
None of these responses helps us to thrive. All of them view change as negative and alien. But the last years have shown us that disruption is not abnormal. Change is constant and the year ahead will only bring more of it. So how can we thrive rather than be traumatised by what lies ahead?
Most of us have a reactive relationship with change. We try to stay in our comfortable routines, relationships, and circumstances until something forces us to change. And then we try to find the easiest route back to equilibrium. But when the next change comes along we’re surprised and the reactive cycle repeats, increasing our stress.
The healthier way to navigate life’s inevitable changes is to be pro-active. This is why all spiritual paths include some variation on the practice of repentance. The word ‘repent’ simply means to change. It’s an unpopular word because it’s associated with sin and with hellfire-and-damnation preachers. But repentance is far more powerful when we embrace it as an intentional practice of personal evolution. If we are to thrive in the year ahead, we will need to make a habit of evaluating our lives and adapting to respond better to what we’re facing—which is what it means to repent. Here are five ways to become pro-active and intentional about dealing with life’s changes. When these spiritual practices become habits, we have everything we need to thrive in 2021.
Make Friends With Change
When we grow used to changing ourselves, we are no longer threatened by what happens around us. Rather, we learn to use our circumstances as a way to access the resources and wisdom within us. We learn to expect change and not be surprised by it. And we are able to adapt quickly and consciously which gives us a better chance of thriving even in the face of tragedy.
We begin to befriend change when we accept its inevitability. Once we’ve done this, we aren’t afraid to explore the process of change in more detail. We can look back on our lives, and assess which changes have been creative and which have been destructive. And we can learn from our past to navigate future changes more pro-actively and creatively.
It is impossible to learn without changing. And it is impossible to change without learning. Which means that curiosity is essential if we are to evolve consciously. This is why many spiritual traditions teach us to have a ‘beginner’s mind’ or to ‘become like children.’ When we face disruptive change, what we think we know becomes less certain and may even become a hindrance to finding our way.
If we are to thrive in 2021 our curiosity will be a crucial survival skill. We will need to make a habit of asking questions. We will need to become adept at listening to those who are on the front line of navigating the changes we face. And we will need to be willing to let go of old, outdated ways of thinking and seeing.
Find Your Spiritual Groove
All spirituality is built on the principle of change. Spiritual practice is designed to train us to recognise and strengthen our best selves while identifying and healing our worst. And as we are transformed, so we contribute in our own small, unique way, to making the world a more just and loving place. This means that spiritual practice makes a significant difference in how well we navigate our unpredictable world.
The best spiritual practices are the ones that work for us and that we can actually do consistently and regularly. It is easy to fall into the trap of following a tradition, guru, or peer group into a recommended practice that just doesn’t work for us. I spent decades trying to develop a prayer practice that never really fitted who I am. It was liberating and life-giving to release that burden and find my own way. And when we do find our own spiritual groove, the energy and wisdom it brings can make a huge difference between existing and thriving in the face of great challenges.
Recruit Your Team
We are not designed to navigate life’s detours and surprises alone. We are social animals and we need one another. While our personal spiritual practice can help us to work with the good and bad within us, nothing is as effective at leading us to our best lives than trusted friends who speak the truth. We remain oblivious to our irritability and narcissism unless we have people around us who will confront us. And we often don’t see what we’re capable of until someone cheers us on.
The coronavirus pandemic may have isolated us from one another physically. But it does not have to keep us from connecting with each other. We can still share our joys and struggles. We can still challenge and encourage one another. And it is important that we have people in our lives with whom we can share our journey. If we are to thrive in 2021, we will need these relationships as much as ever. And it can help if we’re part of a supportive, welcoming community. If you haven’t got such a community around you, you might want to consider joining the EvoFaith Tribe. It could make all the difference in the year ahead.
Develop a Habit of Consciously Evolving
Finally, in a world that is changing as quickly and unpredictably as ours, it is important that we are always ready to adapt. This means that we have a huge advantage if we develop the habits to evolve consciously.
A few months ago I had a conversation online with a friend about worry. He suggested that worry was a useless emotion and that we should learn to overcome it. As I thought about his post, I brought my evolutionary consciousness into play. I asked myself why worry may have evolved and what adaptive value it might have. I realised that worry can be a valuable tool in planning and preparing for the future because it makes us aware of threats and struggles that we might otherwise miss. As a result, I have learned to be more mindful of times when I’m anxious, and to listen to what my worries are trying to tell me.
To thrive in 2021 we will need to make this kind of response a habit. Whenever you face a challenge ask yourself why your responses may have evolved and what adaptive value it might have. Then ask whether the advantages in your responses are still relevant to your current situation, or whether that response no longer has value. Finally, respond by acting accordingly. If your response is no longer helpful, let it go and find a new way. If your response remains valuable, then strengthen it.
THRIVING IN 2021 AND BEYOND
One thing is certain about the year ahead: if we try to rush to some ‘new normal’ so that we don’t have to deal with change we will be sorely disappointed. Change is here to stay. We can continue to respond reactively. Or we can be proactive and learn to evolve consciously. If we choose the latter we won’t just endure change and struggle. We will learn to thrive no matter what we may face. And in the process, we will contribute to making the world a more creative and compassionate place. I hope that 2021 will be a year of intentional evolution for you and that you will thrive as a result!
How can you be more intentional about your own conscious evolution? Which of these five keys to thriving is most helpful for you? Share your ideas and suggestions in the comments. Let’s support and encourage each other as we enter this unpredictable year.
If you’ve found this post helpful, please share it far and wide. We probably have a tough year ahead and I’m sure you know of people who could use some help to navigate it well. And if you need a community to journey with you through 2021, why not join us in the EvoFaith Tribe? It’s free, welcoming, and safe. I hope to see you there!
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