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In Life & Finances, You Are More Adaptable Than You Think

  May 14

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How To AdaptIf there’s one thing I’ve learned during the past few years, it’s that all of us – yes all of us – are so much more adaptable than we think.

Growing up, my parents worked extremely hard, and my siblings and I were very fortunate. However, that nice life we knew came to a very abrupt and unsetting end in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina completely devastated my family, my home, and my community.

Literally in one day, that storm blew in and washed away everything I once knew and cherished. Someday, I’ll tell you the story in more detail, but the important thing I want to convey is that we adapted.

We lost so much but we didn’t lose each other, and for that, I am grateful. My family lives in a new city now, and we’ve rebuilt our lives. The scars of that storm still remain and might always remain, but each year we get stronger.

Each year, we adapt just a little bit more.

When I moved to the Caribbean, I wrote a post about how freeing it was just 6 days into moving there. I wrote a little about Hurricane Katrina and how I finally felt relief from the pain and sadness that it caused. This is still true, but moving to Grenada had its own set of adaptations.

I had to learn to be patient and run on “island time.” I had to realize that medical school would make marriage much harder than it was before. I had to figure out how to be more frugal, exchange currency, drive on the left side of the road, and hang clothes on the line.

All of this took time, and sometimes, I didn’t handle it very well. Sometimes, I just wanted to go home. And sometimes, I loved it so much, I really, really wanted to stay.  It was all very confusing and most of the time, I grappled with these feelings on my own.

I find myself constantly adapting and moving through different phases the longer I live on the island.

Today, two years after moving to Grenada, I find some of these adaptations amusing. I’m visiting my family in Louisiana right now, and I’m especially struggling with the driving. Yesterday morning, I had to slam on the brakes because I pulled out of my driveway and looked the wrong way. I’m used to driving on the left side of the road now, so my brain is basically backwards.

Additionally, I find that my accent gets thicker the longer I visit family and friends in Louisiana. I’m also practically spoiled by all the central AC here. It didn’t take me long to soak in a hot bath (something we definitely don’t have in Grenada) and stroll through the outlet mall and take advantage of sales.

Obviously, some adaptations are easier to make than others.

Overall, I’m amazed when I look back at the past few years and think of all the changes I’ve made and then all the changes that happened to me.  I used to envy people that grew up and stayed in their hometowns, comfortable and happy with their families, whereas I was forced out of my hometown – a place that I loved – due to a bizarre and one in a lifetime event. Now, 8 years after the storm, I am comfortable and even happy with the twists and turns my life has taken.

The point is, adapting can be a good thing. In many ways, it’s required so life can go on.

So, when you want to save money and can’t fathom cutting off the cable, I’m telling you right now – You can adapt.

When you want to accept that new job but it’s halfway across the country, I promise you – you can adapt.

If your loved one just passed away, and you can’t fathom being in any more pain than you are right now, one day, perhaps far away from now, you will adapt.

If you want to be a stay at home mom but you have to cut your bills in half to do it, go ahead – why not just try to adapt?

If you think you could never live without a smart phone, try doing it for a month and watch how you adapt.

If you feel like you have to upgrade your home to one with more bedrooms, why not just adapt and get rid of things instead?

I really feel that if we all just gave ourselves some wiggle room, a bit of fresh air, a running start, a flying leap, or just a willingness to try something new or to change what we already have, we really could do anything.

I’m not saying it will be easy, but moving forward in our lives and our finances relies on one thing and one thing only – adapting.

So come on, who’s with me? Let’s make a change for the better.

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56 responses to “In Life & Finances, You Are More Adaptable Than You Think

  1. Love this! On a slightly more academic note, have you ever read any of Dan Ariely’s stuff? He’s a behavioral economist and some of my favorite stuff that he’s written is about how quickly human beings adapt to changes (both good and bad). So he’s a big fan of making hard changes big and all at once (like a big change to the budget), and making changes that are positive but expensive (like buying new furniture) as slowly as possible to minimize pain and maximize appreciation of all the little things that make up our everyday lives.

    1. I haven’t – Thanks for the tip! That’s so interesting since I feel like many people who write about habits (like Leo Babauta) really focus on small incremental changes so I’m interested in the “hard changes” approach. I’ll have to check it out!

  2. I love this post, Cat! We are far more adaptable than we give ourselves credit for. Change can be scary. Sometimes we do everything we can to avoid it, but when we give ourselves some wiggle room, as you say, we find ourselves adapting rather easily. It is not as painful as we imagine and can be incredibly liberating. Thank you for the reminder!

    1. Thank you, Shannon! Change is definitely scary, especially when it is thrust upon us. However, the human spirit is pretty strong. I find most things aren’t as painful as we think. I appreciate the comment. 🙂

  3. Sorry to hear that Katrina affected you and your loved ones, but it definitely sounded like you adapted, and with great resiliency. I’m dealing through some smaller-scale stuff right now in regard to this, so the timing couldn’t be better to regroup and reassess (and adapt). Great post!

    1. Thank you. Resiliency is a great word to describe it. Glad to timing worked out well for you, and I hope you get something great out of your regrouping and reassessing. 🙂

  4. Great article! I so related to everything you said. Change isn’t comfortable, but it is inevitable. We can either fight it or embrace it. I’ve tried both approaches and found making change my catalyst for growth brings me the most sanity! Enjoy your time with family! And your AC! 🙂

  5. Such a great post. One of my favorite sayings is “This too shall pass”. It mean many different things but I think it can apply here as well in the sense of the discomfort/unfamiliarity of a new situation will pass as you adapt. Nothing is ever as bad or as good as it first seems, and we all have the opportunity to learn from the circumstances around us and improve.

    1. Thanks so much. Discomfort is a good word to use when it comes to these situations. Slowly but surely though, we can get more comfortable!

  6. I still don’t have a smart phone yet, but I’ve adapted to my situation and it’s working for me 😀
    “Enjoying success requires the ability to adapt. Only by being open to change will you have a true opportunity to get the most from your talent.”
    ~Nolan Ryan

  7. I didn’t know you and your family were a victim of Hurricane Katrina! I really enjoyed this post. LIfe is all about adapting and even though I really dislike changes, I know I always eventually adapt 😉

    1. Yes, it’s true. It just hasn’t come up that often on the blog. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the post!

  8. I definitely agree… we can all learn to adapt. it might seem difficult at first, but humans are used to adapt to new conditions, so after some time, most people have grown accustomed to the new habits, thinking of it as normal..

  9. I think this is very funny that I came across this today because I was talking to my husband about cutting out cable and just paying for an Xbox Live subscription instead and for Redbox Instant and Hulu Plus and live on that for a few months…just to see what it is like. I have not issue with it, and he seemed to go along, but I know that it will be more of an adaption to him and the kids than for me. We could use the savings right now, so I’m glad he is willing to try.

  10. Great post! This is so true. We can adapt waaaaay more than we think we can. When o was diagnosed with a chronic illness, I thought life would change forever. It did change, but I adapted to the circumstances and om now happy as ever.

  11. I really loved this post! Adapting to change is not one of my strong suits. But I like what you said in this post; change is something that I am continuing to work on 🙂

    1. Thanks, Mackenzie! That’s really neat that it’s one of your strong suits. Probably makes things a bit easier! 🙂

  12. Really great post, Cat! I know I’m guilty of thinking I can’t adapt easily, but when I look back at the last few years of my life I have adapted a lot to changing circumstances. Really inspiring words at the end of the post, too!

  13. I love, love, love this post! Really I could not agree with you any more! I had a job in NYC that was wonderful…wonderful except it was boring and had NOTHING to do with what I wanted to do with my life. I had my baby and struggled so hard about going back. I knew that I wanted to go to school, I knew that I wanted to stay home with the baby, but I just struggled with the decision. Finally we decided that I can stay home and it was the BEST decision ever! I got to be a stay at home mom for 14 months, and go to school full-time. We were living in NYC so costs are high…but we totally adapted! We really struggled, cause we adapted. We lived on less…but I would do it again in a heart beat!

    1. I love this story, Monique! It’s fabulous – exactly the kind of story that motivates me. 🙂

  14. ha ha I’m going through cable cutting withdrawals right now actually. I initially did OK but realized how much I relied on a TV in my room to sleep…I’ve had insomnia on and off since cutting cable. But over the weekend my friend just gave me a 40″ flatscreen TV, and another friend hooked up the splitter so now I at at least get the antenna reception that I’m getting in my living room. So if there is a will there is a way. I’m sorry your family was affected by Katrina. Change is one thing, but when you’re forced into it that can be a lot harder.

    1. Thanks for the kind words. Good things did come out of the storm, like me meeting the hubs, so there’s always a silver lining! P.S. Your TV situation sounds awesome!

  15. This is such a great reminder! We are about to move, (a really good move for us) and I sometimes get nervous about all the changes. I know we’ll adapt, and probably end up loving it. It’s just hard to convince myself of that sitting comfortably with my friends and family around me all the time. But ready or not, here comes change!

  16. Great post! It’s so true that anyone can adapt if it’s necessary, and sometimes we forget that. I believe it’s human nature to resist change, but we also have an amazing ability to draw a line in the sand and step forward when the time calls for it.

  17. Yes I am big on adapting with a lot of mental strength to get through anything in life. Finances really are about changing how you view needs and wants in life with patience.

  18. You are right, adapting is a great way to stick your foot in the water when it’s cold only to find out in a few minutes you have adapted to water. Life throws us those curve balls and we need to be ready for change. Thanks for sharing a bit about Katrina but it sounds to me like that time in your life inspired you quite a bit. Amazing how life lessons help us to move forward, if we let them.

  19. Great article! I’m always adapting and find it to be one the qualities that has gotten me this far. Nothing is constant, there will always be change, and we have to get used to it 🙂

  20. I am sorry that the hurricane caused such devastation to yourself and your family. Humans are surprisingly resilient. We can roll with the punches quite well, and I find that the larger the crisis, the better we handle it (generally).

  21. One obstacle to adaptation that I’ve noticed in myself is an attachment to certain expectations. You faced the loss of very basic expectations – like the expectation that your house would stand from one day to the next – and in the face of that loss, you have thrived. It sets an example for me, and my “losses” would be so much less significant. Giving up cable, perhaps – or even moving to a smaller house. Thank you for your wise words.

    1. So true. Battling expectations is the biggest challenge of all. Glad you enjoyed the post!

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