The only constant in life is change, Heraclitus philosophized circa 500 B.C. You’d think that, in the past 2,500 years or so, we might have taken his words to heart and become just a smidge better at dealing with the unending uncertainty of life.
The truth is, change scares all of us. Our primitive brains want to keep us safe from harm, because who knows what fresh dangers any change—whether it’s a new predator in the habitat or new management at your job—might present. However change is also the only way that any species advances (adapt or die, after all), so our risk-averse brains are also curious and attuned to the opportunity of new challenges. If your wiring favors more protective instincts over curious impulses, that can be an advantage in many situations. But not all, because Heraclitus was right: Change and uncertainty are inevitable. The more flexible and adaptive you can be, the better.
“The psychological construct of ambiguity tolerance has been linked to creativity,” says Victor Shamas, Ph.D., a psychologist in Tucson, Arizona, and author of Deep Creativity: Inside the Creative Mystery. “I work with a population that I have labeled as free spirits because they defy categorization in various areas: religion, political affiliation, career and gender. Beyond being tolerant of ambiguity, this population embraces it. The millennial generation is adopting a free-spirit attitude to a very large extent, which is fascinating.”
Get comfortable with uncertainty—or risk being replaced by a 23-year-old. Here’s how.