karyn shanks md liftoff blog healing functional medicine

Five Ways We are Wired for Successful Change

“Change is inevitable. Struggle is an option.”         -Bumper sticker on a car in Iowa City

Like everyone I know, I struggle against change. But over the years I’ve learned to soften, to allow myself to flow with change instead of constantly bumping heads with it.

I’ve found I’m not alone. Through my work as a physician, I’ve discovered that healing is all about change. But we hold ourselves back with the stories about how hard change is. Our stories about worst-case-scenarios feel protective, and are tenacious, taking the priority position in our minds.

Change is hard. Resisting change gives us comfort, probably because we are evolutionarilywired to resist it. Well-conserved habits, strategies and ways of living kept our ancestors alive by helping them manage the unpredictable and severe nature of their environments. We have our own complex sets of challenges and, just like our ancestors, we need to feel safe.

Paradoxically, in spite of our resistance to change, the only certainty in our lives is change. As much as we resist change, it happens anyway. And this is good: change is all the beautiful events and opportunities in our lives—our children, lovers, friends, sunsets and sunrises, seasons. It’s the pain of disappointment, as well as the unexpected losses, tragedies, deaths and illness that bring us to our knees. We are challenged by all of it, and yet are gifted with precious insight and wisdom that shows us our strength and resilience, who steps up for us, and what is most meaningful in our lives.

Change is our life unfolding, evolving, blooming, exploding. It is miraculous. And it’s what we want and need to make our lives better than they are now. It’s how we heal and step up into our potential. Change is the flow of life.

With all of our innate resistance to change, we are simultaneously wired to succeed at it. We may fear change, but we all possess attributes right now that prepare and empower us for this journey of discovering and transforming our lives. Even if our genetic legacy and our own innate tendency are to resist change, we all possess the deep potential for successful change: our brains can change, we can change, we can learn to change, we can get good at change. And most of us have a successful personal legacy of change to draw from.

We have inner wisdom and guidance.

Yes, we all have it, but many of us don’t trust it or we don’t stop to listen to it in the midst of our complicated, noisy lives. We must create time, space and quiet to listen into our inner wisdom. And it takes courage to step up into our truth, our inner knowing. This takes practice. Don’t let your mind and your stories about mistrust of yourself get in the way of your true wisdom. I promise you that it is there.

We are innately optimistic.

Yes, humans may be wired for assuming the worst-case scenario when confronted with a challenging or stressful situation, but we also believe in a better future. This is what allows us to plan, to move forward, to get up in the morning. We always assume a better day is coming. We are truly wired for creating the more ennobling story.

We are courageous.

Whether we believe it or not, every single one of us have stepped up to a challenge. We’ve been courageous and we can do it again. We may have fallen or failed. But we did our best even when we were scared or uncertain. Yes, we are all brave.

We are curious.

Curiosity is our birthright. Look at our children, the greatest explorers of all. Curiosity leads to learning and development of our brains and is an absolute necessity for children to grow into successful adults. As adults we don’t lose our sense of curiosity, we just don’t allow enough time for it. We’re too scheduled and uptight. Curiosity needs time and space. And it leads to creative ideas and solutions.

We have all succeeded at change before.

Think back over your life and recall your successes at change. It may be tempting to focus on the failures, but look hard and remember those times when you succeeded. Can you recall the positive changes that you brought about, because of your efforts, perhaps unrecognized by others—at home, at work, in the world? I’m quite certain there are innumerable ways you have successfully managed a challenge, created something new or solved a problem. These are all successes to draw from. There is undoubtedly new territory through which you must explore, assess, understand and cultivate creative change, but you have the experience and many skills to empower and assist you.

We are called to change every day.

Change is evolution. It is the gateway to our higher selves. Through intentional, purposeful change we expand our lives, heal ourselves and create richer, happier lives.

How have you succeeded at change?


Karyn Shanks MD


Karyn Shanks, MD, is a physician who lives and practices in Iowa City. Her work is inspired by the revolutionary science of Functional Medicine, body-mind wisdom, and the transformational journeys of thousands of clients over her twenty-eight year career. She believes that the bones of healing are in what we do for ourselves.


    Letting go of family belief patterns that were not helpful within or outside of the family dynamics with friends and colleagues. The process was difficult, because some family members fought what they believed to be an obvious act of “rebellion”. I became a target to blame but believed through readings and the actions and reactions of others that I was moving towards a healthier lifestyle. The change took patience and perseverance with some relapse every once in awhile. Some family members became more vocal about their perceptions and a dialogue ensued, opening up closed doors; some family distanced themselves preferring to remain in the long established belief system; and others who had been at the fringe of the family became closer to me, re-establishing lost childhood positive memories and inviting opportunities for current and future possibilities. Very glad I made the change. It helped me realize and embrace my inner strength to put aside beliefs that had once worked but were ineffective and damaging in the present


    Thanks for that, Sue. Change is not for the feint of heart, is it? It takes a lot of courage, strength and, as you say, patience and perseverance.


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