Tom Heuerman is an organizational consultant who recently wrote about the qualities of sustainable organizations: they “continually adapt to the external environment…. [and] have a core identity of purpose (why they exist) and values (guiding principles) that provide stability and continuity as all else changes over time.”

What struck me is how much what applies to organizations also applies to individuals. As businesswomen, our work life springs from the same unchanging bedrock.

Perhaps bedrock is not the only apt metaphor. Biologists know that one of the qualities of a living system is that it is able to respond and adapt to change without losing its basic integrity. Take a cell for instance. It has a semi-permeable membrane that allows things to flow in and out, while maintaining its “cellness.”

So it is with you. There is a “youness” that is unchanged, a core that will remain no matter how much and how well you adapt to the changing business world. It’s why wherever you go, there you are, as Jon Kabat-Zinn famously said.

As I write in my book AdaptAbility, part of that “youness” is made of four elements that make up the acronym LIVE:

L: what you love to do

I: your inner gifts which are the unique ways of thinking you are excellent at

V: values, what deeply matters to you

E: the environments that bring out the best in you

How you express these, where you aim them, and how you understand them can and does develop and change over time. But there’s some persistent essence, a steady ground note like the beat of your heart.

Take me, for instance. When I knew I had to leave publishing, one of my authors Dawna Markova invited me to join her consulting company. I had to learn lots of new skills, like leading groups. What I brought with me that was unchanging was my love of reading, writing, talking, and thinking, my combination of analysis and ability to foster the growth of other people, as well as my belief in the ability of people to change, and my tendency to do my best in an environment that offers both time alone and with others. These were the raw materials that I had offered as an editor and publisher of a self help publishing company. Now I was simply aiming them in a new direction.

During times of change, getting more in touch with the LIVE elements of your “youness” is crucial because it contains the raw materials you bring to any and all circumstances. Dawna often talks about her grandmother. One time, when life was asking a big change of me and I was despairing of my ability to cope with it, she told me the following story: Her grandmother was a Jew living in a Russian village. Throughout the centuries, every so often, the Cossacks would blow through and destroy all the houses of Jews in the village. All you could do, grandma said, was to hide until they left, then pick through the rubble searching for the whole bricks and build again. Our loves, talents, values, and preferred environments are those whole bricks from which we re-build.

Author's Bio: 

A member of Professional Thinking Partners who is recognized as a leading expert in change, M.J. Ryan specializes in coaching high performance executives, entrepreneurs, individuals, and leadership teams around the world to maximize performance and fulfillment. Her clients include Microsoft, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Hewitt Associates, and Frito Lay. Her work is based on a combination of positive psychology, strengths-based coaching, the wisdom traditions, and cutting edge brain research. Her new book, titled “AdaptAbility: How to Survive Change You Didn't Ask For” was recently released published by Random House’s Broadway Books. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and daughter.