Adaptability: The Essential Ingredient to Successfully Managing Change
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change. ~Charles Darwin
Most of us are already pretty adaptable when it comes to the small stuff … the restaurant is out of the item we order on the menu, so we pick something else; there’s a street crew working on the road we normally take to work, so we take a detour, etc.
It’s the big things in life that often throw us for a loop, such as loss of a job, relationship issues, financial or health problems. Sometimes, no matter how well we plan, we find ourselves back at square one … and when that happens, we need to adapt – and fast.
Adapting does not mean giving up hope, or accepting adversity as your fate.
Adaptability is important because when you fight and resist the circumstances of your life, you create a state of fear and upset that almost always makes your situation worse. You develop tunnel vision, and you interact in a way that destroys love and creates opposition and resistance against yourself.
When you can let go of resisting, you will be able to restore your peace of mind and see your situation more clearly and what needs to be done. The moment you let go, everything seems to change. With the fear and upset gone, you become calm, creative, and able to discover solutions that you could never have seen before.
To see this in another way, let’s look at the nature of fear.
Fear is created by avoiding and resisting some future possible event. For example, let’s say that you are resisting the possible loss of your relationship. The more you resist this loss, the greater your fear. As your fear increases, so does the chance of your fear coming true. The greater your fear, the more you become threatened and the more you hang on. Ironically, this in turn pushes the person further and further away.
By avoiding and resisting this future possible event, you create a state of fear and upset that tends to bring you the very event that you are avoiding.
For fear to lose its power you need to do the opposite of resisting. You need to be willing for the event you fear to happen. You don’t have to like it, just be willing. Keep in mind that letting go is a state of mind and is totally separate from your actions. Letting go is what removes the fear and upset so that you can see what action works.
Trust That No Matter What Happens, You Will Be Okay
Now this doesn’t mean that life will turn out the way that you want it to … life often doesn’t. Trust is you believing that, however life turns out, you will be fine.
When you know that you will be fine, letting go becomes relatively easy. You restore your effectiveness and life works out.
Strategies to Help You Become More Adaptable
- Accept that you can’t control everything. I believe we all know this on some level, but at times we try hard to overcome this basic truth. You can’t even control everything within your own little sphere of influence … you can influence things, but many things are simply out of your control. There are things that we cannot control that will affect every aspect of our lives, and we must accept that, or we will be constantly frustrated.
- Learn to compromise to create more win/win opportunities, even if it means situations won’t always end up exactly as you’ve planned. In marriage this is often referred to as “choosing your battles!”
- Become aware. You can’t change things in your head if you’re not aware of them. You have to become an observer of your thoughts, a self-examiner. Be aware that you’re becoming upset, so that you can do something about it. Identify actions you can take that will flip your switch to a better, more positive frame of mind.
- Accept change as a part of life. When we finally get things just the way we like them, we usually don’t want them to change. Dream, act, strive and persist. But, if the winds blow and twist your sail and if the path of life conspires to direct you to a different trail, let go and don’t resist. Believe that ultimately the universe knows what is meant for you and what’s not. Don’t let the uncertain future prevent you from giving life your best shot.
- Keep a journal. Anyone who follows my blog knows I am a big believer in the benefits of journaling, and this particular exercise is one of the best uses of a journal. Once a day, try to recall if anything in particular set you off. Why did you get upset? What did you try to do? Did it work, and if not, why not? What can you do next time? This kind of recollection and examination, after the fact, will help you learn from the process.
- Realize that you can’t control others. Ah, one of the biggest challenges. We get frustrated with other people because they don’t act the way we want them to act. Maybe it’s our kids, maybe it’s our spouse or significant other, maybe it’s our coworker or boss, and maybe it’s our mom or best friend. But we have to realize that they are acting according to their personality, to their priorities and to what they feel is right. We have to accept that others are not always going conform to the actions and behaviors we want.
You can’t change the fact that stressful, and occasionally life altering, events will happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events by learning how to be more adaptable in your day-to-day life.
If you found the information in this article helpful, you may be interested to know it was adapted from my book Stepping Stones to Greater Resilience.
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