The You of Today Is Not the You of Tomorrow: Lessons on Change and Impermanence
The way we see ourselves and our situation is critical to how we live our lives.
But not in the way you might think.
As time goes on, I’ve gradually become more aware of the fact that what we see as ourselves — from our physical surroundings to our professional life and even our mental and emotional state — is in constant flux.
I’ve thought a lot about how someone who is stable mentally can, over time, become very depressed and unstable due to less-than-favorable circumstances. For example, a great and sudden financial or personal loss.
The point is, the person we think we are today may be very different one year, five years, or ten years from now.
After years of hard work and struggle, you might eventually gain a new level of confidence which changes how you act for the rest of your life. Then again, you might get fired and lose your self-confidence. There is an infinite number of varieties to this, however, it all boils down to the same idea: the person we see ourselves as, and the person we are, can change.
But we’re not hopeless to be blown by the winds of life. If we use this knowledge skillfully, this same knowledge can help us live better.
All conditioned things are impermanent– when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering.
– The Buddha
We, as well as the rest of the world, are in a constant state of flux. But the thing is, it usually feels like the opposite – like we’re stuck in place or like the good times will last forever and this influences how we act. And that is why this knowledge is so invaluable.
So then, how can we use this information to improve our lives? It mostly comes down to the two states I outlined above…
When things are good
How is this awareness of the ever-changing nature of life useful when things are already going great? Because things can and will change. The awareness of this point inevitably means that, while things might be great now – they might not always be.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean that your life will inevitably be turned upside down and that there’s no use planning or working towards big, long-term goals. This simply means that things can happen and challenges may arise in some way, shape, or form so you should be aware of it.
So, what do you do with it? You plan ahead, stay sharp, and work to mitigate potential risk. A clear example of this would be insurance (or a nest egg to take the place of it). Insurance of various kinds is (usually…) cheap enough that you don’t much notice it, but if something were to happen? It’s a lifesaver. The same goes for being in business. Taking steps to mitigate potential risks when you’re hit with a dip in revenue or lose a key member of your team can go a long way.
Setting yourself up ahead of time and working to mitigate these potential risks can save you a huge headache (or much more) later on and keep you from falling off of your long-term goals. Just do me a favor and don’t do what everyone else does: brush it off and think nothing will ever change (because if you look back on your life, you’ll know – you’re wrong).
When things aren’t so good
When things aren’t going so well, we often feel as though we’re stuck in place and that things will never get better. This is where knowledge of how everything in life, including ourselves, is always changing becomes a welcomed beacon of hope and a tool for motivation.
First, use this knowledge to remind yourself that things won’t stay this way forever. They will change. There’s no way to know for certain how, but the certainty of change itself can be comforting when all you want is to get out of your current situation.
Second, while it’s virtually impossible to know what will happen in the future, it is much easier to do something else: change it. We don’t need know to know what the future has in store to influence it. And the knowledge of this can be hugely motivating for someone who feels stuck.
In every moment, we have the ability to take action towards a brighter future and influence our life moving forward. You might not know what the future has in store, and it may be impossible to influence it with certainty, but we, as human beings, have proven time and time again that hard work and dedication to a brighter future can make anything possible.
Whether things are going great or you feel stuck in place, know that life will keep on moving. But this knowledge doesn’t have to work against you. By using it to your advantage, you can not only find greater happiness in every moment, appreciating when things are going great, but also retain hope when life is tough.
And while certainty is hard to find in an uncertain world, one thing will always be certain: with hard work and relentless dedication, you can change your life for the better.