Discover why our ability to change is a matter of life and death – and then some

The marriage of births and deaths

British bureaucracy is not well known for its sense of humour. But someone in Westminster was clearly having a laugh when they decided to integrate the offices for registering births and deaths. Maybe they thought it would be fun to incorporate the link between life and death into public sector organizational design. Or maybe they just confused empathy with efficiency. Either way, there I was, sitting in one such office in London, simultaneously watching the happiest and saddest people in the world, mingling like guests at the world’s most awkward party.

Live and let change

Whilst births and deaths (and taxes) may be the only certainties in life, their consequences are anything but certain. From personal experience, I can say that any new parent who thinks they know what’s going to happen after they leave the maternity ward – however many parenting books they’ve read – is either naive or deluded (which might be why babies smile for no apparent reason). And bereavement serves as a stark reminder of just how quickly – and how much – life can change in a (final) heartbeat.

Never stop changing

But change doesn’t just happen at the start and end of our journey in life. These days change is a continuum – not surprising really, given that our external environment is the sum of every disruption that our competitors, customers, regulators, and relationships throw at us all the time. And even that’s only half the story, as change isn’t just about being adaptable at work. It’s about being adaptable in life. And that’s why our ability to change is nearly the most important trait we need to have.

Here’s the bottom line:

I reckon that a life without love would be a life unfulfilled (although luckily I’ll never know for sure). And love is felt no more keenly that when a child is born, or when a loved one dies. Nothing is more important in life than our ability to love. But, in order to deal with the love we find and the love we lose, our ability to deal with the changes those events bring is arguably the second most important skill we need in life. It’s even more important than having the best technical skills in how to be an engineer, or a marketer, or a parent. That’s because the game is won or lost not on how much you know about the game, but on your ability to adapt to how it is being played.

Don’t endure life, enjoy it

The good news is that anyone can learn to embrace change. And anyone who does will get to enjoy rather than endure more of the inevitable life of change that lies ahead for us all. It can even help when you’re at the office for registering births and deaths, wishing you were anywhere else.