Change is the only constant thing in life

Have you ever wondered why change is such a constant presence in our lives? As you think about this question, galaxies are racing away from the Earth at 73.3 kilometers per second per megaparsec. 1 It’s not just the cosmic reality that is constantly changing. Change is imprinted in our very being.

For instance, since yesterday, your body has replaced 1% of its cells. That is equivalent to 330 billion cells. 2 This means that in 80 to 100 days, your body will reproduce an equivalent number of cells to a new person.

Yes, change is integrated into every fabric of our universe from our cosmic existence to our very cells.

Yet, despite the ever-lasting presence of change, many of us find ourselves clinging to the comfort of familiarity. We’re hesitant to let go of the routines and habits that elude us a sense of stability even when deep down, we know that we should do otherwise.

Change, whether good or bad, means sailing from the known to the unknown. We often view this transition as leaving safety for uncertainty, similar to a captain navigating uncharted waters.

Steven Levit, economist, and social researcher at the University of Chicago thinks differently about change. His research shows that making change improves life satisfaction even if the decision was made by the flip of a coin.3

If change is generally positive, why are we so hesitant about it?

Firstly, we love the comfort of what we know. So, embracing the unknown doesn’t seem appealing, even if it means compromising and letting go of opportunities.

Secondly, some changes are hard, especially if they challenge who we are.

For example, think of changing careers or starting that creative project that you have been thinking about…

However, sometimes, negative changes hurl themselves into our lives like an unexpected storm barreling into that sailor’s ship.

Even then, frustration and distraught have little to offer us when facing a storm. Instead, accepting the change for what it is can help us stay in control and weather the storm.

An accepting attitude could strip away that fear and bring some inner calmness. 

Moreover, viewing change as a step toward growth empowers us. It helps us feel confidence and resilience in the face of challenges.

Heraclitus, the ancient Greek philosopher, famously declared that change is the only constant thing in life. But what is the science and psychology behind Heraclitus’ idea of change?

To explore this, first, we must look at the nature of change, and then explore why changes should be seen in a more positive light.

How do changes happen?

In times of change, we often look to find reasons or assign blame. But, let’s reconsider our perspective of change.

For example, think about this: nothing in our physical reality has true permanence, not even “nothingness.”

In fact, “nothingness” is constantly moving and changing. 4 According to quantum field theory, a space emptied of all particles ripples like a “bubbling soup,”. Even there, you can notice fluctuations in the very fabrics of existence. Here, you can see this 3D visualization of these fluctuations from the Department of Physics at the University of Adelaide website.

If even “nothingness’ is in constant rearrangement, then surely everything in this reality should have change built into it.

Somehow, our seemingly solid presence in this reality rests on ever-changing energy fields. There is much we don’t know about our reality, but one might expect that changes at the particle level would have some consequence on our lives at the higher level.

Change defines every aspect of our reality from the expansive cosmos to the void. This insight helps us to understand change not as an anomaly but as the default mode of operation. In light of this perspective, a story from Zhuangzi offers a compelling perspective.

Zhuangzi – the ancient Chinese philosopher- tells a story about a fisherman and an empty boat: Once, a fisherman was crossing a river. Suddenly, another boat collided with his. Naturally, he stood up in fury to shout at the other fisherman. But he realized the other boat was empty. So, his anger faded as he saw no reason to be upset with an empty vessel.

What if a change is like an empty boat? What if it is not directly caused by someone or something?

Because if you look deeply enough, you’ll realize that no single circumstance, reason, or person is solely to blame for a difficult change; there is always something more complex at play.

If changes resemble empty boats that occasionally collide with ours, would it feel right to be furious or frustrated about them?

Doesn’t it seem logical to accept changes as part of an evolving universe?

By accepting the unavoidable nature of change, we open ourselves to new possibilities.

Rather than resisting or denying change, accepting it allows us to adapt and learn. It enables us to let go of the past and focus all our efforts on finding ways to move forward.

Moreover, acceptance allows us to be resilient and view changes as opportunities for personal growth and development.

With that in mind, here are 4 reasons why change is necessary for personal growth:

1- Forcing out the automaticity

Automaticity refers to the automatic processes that control our actions and behaviors. The parts that take care of the mundane tasks.

It improves our efficiency and helps with gaining skills. And it takes over much of what we do in our daily routines. For example, it types on the keyboard for us, drives the car, carries small talk with colleagues, and more. Automaticity is also marked by a ” lack of intention, attention, and awareness.” 5

So, most days we mindlessly follow our habits which is fine for doing routine and mundane tasks. But it also means a lack of appreciation, creativity, and individual expressivity in other areas of life. 6

A change shakes us out of routines and habits and gives the control back to the conscious self. This fresh perspective changes priorities and brings a new appreciation for the seemingly mundane.

A sign of experiencing this is that “what previously was viewed as a small thing, the happy giggle of a toddler, for example, may now become much more important than ever before.” 7

Similarly, the pressure to adapt to new change also means replacing the automatic response with novel solutions and exploring new possibilities.

2- Bringing out the strengths

One’s own self is well hidden from one’s own self: Of all mines of treasure, one’s own is the last to be dug up.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Sometimes, we zoom through life relying on the support of people around us. As a consequence, we never realize our strengths. A change can place someone out of their habitual social network and force them to reconsider their abilities.

Similarly, much of what we know about our abilities is shaped by social norms, cultural values, and comparisons with others. A change could shed light on our potential by showing us that we are capable of more than we have previously considered.

L. Frank Baum’s characters in “The Wizard of Oz” are classic examples of such self-realizations, where after many challenges they each realize that they already had what they were looking for all along.

3- Increasing motivation

Carol S. Dweck, psychologist and the author of Mindset believes challenges along with a growth mindset can become the foundation for one’s success. The key to this success is to turn set back to motivation.

LeBron James finds the reason for his success in his earlier failures, he says: “Don’t be afraid of failure. This is the way to succeed. I think the reason why I’m the person who I am today is because I went through those tough times when I was younger.” He took each setback as a learning curve and practiced to master his techniques.

In Carol Dweck’s terminology, a fixed mindset is about seeing setbacks as failures. Instead, a growth mindset focuses on the process and recognizes failures to identify weak points and improve the game. A fixed mindset holds you in past mistakes whereas a growth mindset encourages you to adapt and learn.

Adopting the right mindset is about seeing a change in life or challenge not as a hassle but as an opportunity for learning that can motivate and lead to further growth and resilience.

4- Finding good in the struggle

Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving; we get stronger and more resilient

Steve Maraboli

In the mythology of the phoenix, the bird rises from its ashes and transforms into a more majestic and vibrant version of itself.

Works of psychologists, Tedeschi & Calhoun in the 1990s put this phenomenon into a scientific study. They develop a 21-item scale to measure personal strength, new possibilities, relating to others, spiritual change, and appreciation of life to put this idea to the test. Their research confirms that life’s major changes and adversities do lead to positive personal growth. 8

Further research in the early 2000s by Alex Linley and Stephen Joseph, shows that 30-70 percent of people who suffer adversity experience some positive change.9

Recovering from a stressful situation could mean reassessing previous beliefs and behaviors. It could also mean adopting a different perspective to cope with the stress.

This leads to resilience and a newfound appreciation for life’s challenges. As individuals navigate through difficulties, they often discover inner strengths they didn’t know they possessed. They also develop a deeper sense of empathy and compassion for others. And at the same time find more confidence in facing an uncertain future.


The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.

Alan Watts

Change is integrated into the very fabric of our reality.

Despite this, we are often reluctant to move into the unknown and change our lives for the better.

Accepting change means moving beyond resistance and frustration and focusing our energy on finding ways to move forward in difficult times. It is further about finding new possibilities for discovery and personal growth.

As we navigate life, embracing change empowers us to discover our strengths, increase motivation, and find resilience in the face of adversity.

Because in every challenge lies a potential for personal growth.


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  9. Linley PA, Joseph S. Positive change following trauma and adversity: a review. J Trauma Stress. 2004 Feb;17(1):11-21. doi: 10.1023/B:JOTS.0000014671.27856.7e. PMID: 15027788. ↩︎