When I was a kid we had a game called Fiddle Sticks, also called Pick Up Sticks. You had a container of sticks which you’d empty onto the table, creating a random structure. Each player would try to remove one stick at a time, trying to prevent the structure from collapsing. With a steady hand, you’d gingerly remove a stick, trying very hard not to disturb the others and collapse the whole pile.

Like that game

In a way, our lives are like that game. Our lives are structured by the way things have fallen into place and they endure through periods of stability. Occasionally change breaks into our lives, or maybe we invite it in, and it removes some of the sticks and introduces new ones.

This process is good for us, because some of the sticks in our lives hurt us and we are better when they are gone. And there are sticks we need and we’ll be better off once we get them. The challenge is to remove and replace the sticks without collapsing into a random heap.

The structure is important because we have to understand our lives in coherent ways. The bits and pieces need to make sense to us, otherwise our lives won’t make sense.

The challenge becoming adaptable

This is the challenge of becoming adaptable and good with change, but also remaining stable. Our story can change, but we need to preserve the links between the changes, understanding why they happened and how they set us on a new trajectory.

Becoming adaptable involves being confident and good around change, and it also means thinking about our personal story, why things happen to us, and why we make our choices. As our choices evolve, so do our stories of who we are. This how we can remain stable as we become adaptable.

One last point. Sometimes, people do come down in a raging heap and the stable self is in pieces on the floor. This is a crisis. But we are not like Humpty Dumpty who couldn’t be put back together again. People are resilient. In time, new stable structures can arise from the pieces and life goes on.

Reach out to me if you need help becoming more adaptable while remaining stable. We have programs that can help you.

Written by Dr Steve Barlow

Steve Barlow
Author: Steve Barlow

Steve heads up The Change Gym. He is a change readiness specialist. You can contact him at