01/13/2015 06:17 pm ET Updated Mar 15, 2015

4 Survival Skills for Adapting to Change

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A wife loves her husband for ten years, but after ten years and a day, she realizes that her heart belongs to someone else.

A businessman's career forces him to relocate to a city an ocean away, where he struggles to speak another language and experiences culture shock.

Before reaching senior year, half of college freshman's friends transfer schools, graduate early, or drop out entirely.

Change happens constantly, yet we never cease to be surprised by it.

Humans do not like change, because, at the very root of our existence, we are animals. From an evolutionary perspective, animals adapt in order to thrive in their natural habitats, with the expectation of remaining in such an environment for the entirety of their lives. Unlike animal life, though, the complexity of human life does not allow each member of the species to enjoy the same type of consistency and stability.

Part of adapting to the constancy of change involves developing survival skills that you can employ when the inevitability of change strikes again:

1. Refuse to be passive.
Sometimes wholeheartedly accepting change goes against what you truly desire. In the case that there is some possible way to prevent a specific change, you must attempt to do so. Otherwise you will always regret it. Make it clear that you do not have neutral feelings toward the situation. Speak up for yourself, make a grand gesture, show someone how much you care. Your attempt may just be enough to reverse the impending change.

2. Know when to let go of change.
If nothing can be done to prevent a change, possessing the attitude of "What's done is done," and "Everything happens for a reason" is the next logical survival skill. Learn from the biblical story of the wife of Lot, who when instructed to flee her home, disobeyed God's command to not look back, and was consequently turned into a pillar of salt. Even from biblical times, we have been advised against resisting what is beyond our control, in favor of looking forward instead.

3. Don't expect something to last forever.
So much of our society is based on this promise of forever. At weddings, couples promise, "Until death do us part." Initiation into a fraternity requires a pledge of eternal loyalty from each member. The term BFF (best friend forever) has become part of our everyday lingo. The reality, however, is that not everything can or does last forever. The individuals who can accept this reality are far more flexible and easygoing, while those who cannot are much more easily broken down and more afraid of losing what they have. Since at least some change is inevitable, it is better to be aware that not everything can last and to instead appreciate what you have when you have it. Internalize that new allegiances, new blessings, and new promises of 'forever' are always possible.

4. Count on yourself above all else.
Every one of us has been betrayed or let down in the past. A mentor passes away, a trusted co-worker moves onto another career opportunity, friends go in their separate directions. The only constant in the mathematical equation of life is you. The only thing you can control (and sometimes not even this) is you -- your behavior, your decisions, your actions. Preaching this very principle, Tracy McMillan explains, "The person you really need to marry is yourself." This is largely because you are the only one who can control your responses to change.

So the next time you encounter the stress of change, remember that just like the animals, we too can adapt in order to thrive in our own natural habitats -- habitats that are constantly shifting, transforming, and changing in all different directions.