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Adaptability: The Essential Ingredient to Successfully Managing Change

2012 November 16

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

adaptabilityAdaptability is not a word we see very often, but all it really means is having the capability of adapting to new conditions, aka “change.”

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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33 Responses
  1. November 24, 2012

    Be able to adapt to life’s so called changes is a lifetime of being persistent when determined to accomplish things regardless of challenges. Your thoughts shape what will and will not happen to you in any given time. No matter what may challenge you to make decisions on accepting say, being unemployed. You must learn what you need to do and how to do it for a replacement of benefits, revenue and a false sense of security.

    Most things are tied to feelings and then your choices. No one works for someone without knowing or preparing for that day you may have to work for yourself. You started with not working for someone and yet still survived.

    Knowing all resources and how to get to them is the key to adapting to anything. I had the blessing to be raised military with both parents in the Marines. Then me being in the U.S. Air Force. We have had the pleasure of learning at childhood to adapt or not survive. That is how it is clear of being one who accepts life’s challenges head on and get through them with smiles. Each time you must adapt is a growing pain per say. You can and will move on with or without your beginning willingness.

    I really enjoyed this article to the point there are so many ways to share usable steps to learning to adapt or not survive. I love a challenge and live to serve others. That is why I made it a lifestyle to learn daily.

    William Amis recently posted..Mastering ActionMy Profile

  2. November 23, 2012

    Hi Marty,

    You are so right about learning how to be adaptable in life. Once you accept change as a part of your life and learn how to adapt and deal with it you will be able to experience less stress and have more peace in your life. Thanks for providing some great strategies on how to be more adaptable.
    Shelley Alexander recently posted..Honey Balsamic Roasted CarrotsMy Profile

  3. November 23, 2012

    If a manager is adaptable to change only then they can make their teams welcome change positively; otherwise it can be cumbersome. Great share.

  4. November 22, 2012

    It is so often the resistance to what is and what might be coming that takes up all our time and energy. There are some things we can do right now in the present moment, but in order to consider doing those things right now we need to be adaptable.

    This ability, I think, more than almost any other, can change our everyday reality into a beautiful experience. And allows us the freedom to choose how e are going to think and feel in each present moment.
    Michael Shook recently posted..Binaural Beats And Positive Affirmations For AbundanceMy Profile

  5. November 22, 2012

    Adaptability is very important as things can’t be always as you want or wish them to be. Humans do fear change as they use to a certain way of life, but this surely cause a lot of stress. With so many things changing so rapidly around us adaptability becomes unavoidable. Thanks for this lovely share, Marty.
    richa recently posted..November 21, 2012 – Aries Daily HoroscopeMy Profile

  6. November 21, 2012

    Hi Marty,
    I think adaptability is a form of intelligence we all need to develop especially when we cannot control things outside of us… Events that seem overwhelming, that take us by surprise or anything that might make us feel helpless or hopeless.
    Sometimes I struggle to adapt when things do not seem fair but again I take the opportunity to ask to myself what is this event trying to teach me.
    The image I get of adapting is of a yoga posture where the yogi has no physical limits, an anchor that helps me remembering our infinite possibilities.
    Patricia Gozlan recently posted..How to Overcome Emotional Dependency with a Simple NLP toolMy Profile

  7. November 20, 2012

    Excellent and very Important post. Any manager who is struggling through a business change should know that employee buy-in is very important. It is also important to keep in mind that it can be time-consuming and very difficult to secure.

    Thanks Marquita
    Santosh recently posted..Most Loved Destinations Around The World During ChristmasMy Profile

  8. November 20, 2012


    Adapting to the circumstances life throw at you helps so much in those circumstances, as you said to tell yourself that everything will work itself out, things aren’t always as bad as they seem and not to stress to much that it effects you even more.

    Thank you for your inspirational post!

    Regards, Jessica.
    Jessica vanZyl recently posted..YouTube Pay Per Click WebinarMy Profile

  9. November 19, 2012

    Excellent Article decision admin. I wish everyone would be as kind as you Thanks a lot.
    clarkmartin recently posted..ElectricianMy Profile

  10. November 18, 2012

    I think a lot of the problems that a good bit of unemployed are Americans are facing is their inability or unwillingness to adapt to the changing market. It is the same for a lot of service members who are transitioning back to civilian life. You earn your stripes and receive the respect that comes along with it. Some earn theirs then there are the ones who demand it. Out of the service they don’t get that kind of respect and can’t handle not feeling important.
    Melanie Young recently posted..Tasting is believing.My Profile

  11. November 18, 2012

    Great post, Marty! You are so right about the need to adapt. My native state of West Virginia has a lot of people who cannot imagine the future of America where the majority of electricity comes from sources other than coal, so instead they try to demonize any attempt to diversify the state’s energy portfolio. The end result? They fall farther and farther behind, and before you know it, if they aren’t careful, they are going to be like the last person to have shares in kerosene lamps 100 years ago. If they would adapt, and just put a portion of focus on renewables, they would be well prepared for the future.
    Steve Nicholas recently posted..The Importance of FocusMy Profile

  12. November 18, 2012

    Great article. I struggle with “Accept that you can’t control everything.” Virgo, working Mom, keeping all the balls up in the air, yadda, yadda, yadda… However, trying something new this year for Thanksgiving – “stress-free control-free holiday zone.” Accept that the meal doesn’t have to be perfect, house doesn’t have to be spotless; we’re all going to even stay in our pajamas all day!
    Kimba recently posted..In Search Of: Angry White MaleMy Profile

  13. November 18, 2012

    It is so true, exactly how you are saying Marty, that one of the most important things is to be aware. It is virtually impossible to change anything if we are not aware of it in the first place.

    Sometimes people get the idea of accepting where they are with a belief of resignation that they are going to remain there in that spot. But that is not the case. Life is always moving and when we become aware of where we are we can make plans and take action to be on our way somewhere else. :-)
    Michael Shook recently posted..Zombie DaysMy Profile

  14. November 18, 2012

    Great article. I’ve encountered fear when a change is coming that I don’t want to happen. But I’ve learned to accept that there are things that I can’t control. I’m always trying to be more adaptable to everything that comes my way. Thanks for sharing your strategies and tips.
    Felix Lee recently posted..8 Advantages of Online BankingMy Profile

  15. November 17, 2012

    Hi Marty. The first thing I thought of when I came to your post was the picture of the lady with all the hats. I was in a music teachers’ group awhile back, and someone did a presentation with a bunch of hats. It had to do with adaptability – as a piano teacher and business owner. I think that being able to adapt is essential in all areas of life. It seems that is harder to do as we get older, but it’s my goal to keep trying to adapt. Thanks for this post.

    All the best,
    Leslie Denning recently posted..Millionaire Mindset: My Dirty Little SecretMy Profile

  16. November 17, 2012

    Marquita great post. I learned my skills regarding adaptability from working in the human service field. With the constant revolving door of clients and co-workers if I had not learned to adapt to the many changes in work schedules the different personalities the astonishing stories I would here year after year from the people we helped I probably would not have 18 years in that business. Not to mention the constant many times not helpful interference from governance. What I learned working in that enviornment taught me to be the same in my personal life which led to peace of mind.
    Lydia Brown recently posted..Solo Ad AdvertisingMy Profile

  17. November 17, 2012

    What a detailed and supportive list of advice around adaptability aka change. Journaling or diarising the situation can be really helpful in tense circumstances and helps clarity of thought, if you can only try one thing on your list, you should try journaling.
    Sarah Arrow recently posted..#Pinterest: the small biz marketing kitMy Profile

  18. November 17, 2012

    Hi Marquitta,

    what an insightful post with so many useful suggestions!

    Yes, we can’t control others and life’s challenges.

    We could have ‘unenforceable rules’ about them and get disappointed or
    we could trust the process and ‘upgrade our expectations to preferences’(Ken Keyes)
    and let go of the outcome.

    Thank you so much for sharing this inspiring article.

    Love and Light!

    Yorinda recently posted..How to set up your Twitter Header PhotoMy Profile

  19. November 17, 2012

    Great post, Marquita. Adaptability is key to changing and getting better at what we do in live. “Uncontrollables” happen, and we need to accept them in order to begin the rebuilding process. Nature provides lessons in this. Some trees that suffer from an unkind, uncontrollable act, they will re-group, strengthen under the surface. When ready, growth begins again.

    We need to re-group at times and re-strengthen. We are then ready to grow again.

    Jon Mertz recently posted..Be a Trust ActivistMy Profile

  20. November 17, 2012


    You are so right when you say mastering adaptability is not the small stuff in life. We know life is going to hand us a couple of major changes as time passes and it’s what we do with those, how we react that make the difference.

    Years ago my wife and I were blessed to be taught to deal with the “what’s so” in life. It’s been a key to our successful relationship and our personal successes in life. Things happen that we have no control over, that affect us. Wishing it were different will not make it so. Dealing with the situation head on will take the sting away so one can get on with the important stuff.

    Thanks again for an informative and thought provoking piece.

    Rick Lelchuk recently posted..Are You A Commitment Waiting To Happen?My Profile

  21. November 16, 2012

    Yes being adaptable can be challenging for those who fear change. Letting go allows us to become free and step into our power. Inspiring list Marty
    Suzie Cheel recently posted..Kindness Can Be Contagious And Can Change LivesMy Profile

  22. November 16, 2012

    You’ve got to have a plan, Marty.

    But part of that plan has to be to regularly revise it.

    You must be adaptable to changing circumstances, especially online, because it is such a fluid medium. Rarely a month goes by that we don’t need to modify things in our agenda, our approach and our methodology.

    A lot of people don’t like that about online marketing. That’s because they’re rigid and not prone to adaptability. They love control and hate compromise and change. As you point out in this article, that’s a recipe for disaster.
    David Merrill 101 recently posted..Email MarketingMy Profile

  23. November 16, 2012

    Hi Marty,

    Great topic! It’s very true that change is the only constant in life, and any illusion of control we think we may have–which is based on fear–just makes it harder for us to adjust. Something I’m actively cultivating is letting go of expectations of how things need to be, such that I won’t be crushed if the outcomes don’t turn out the way I expect them to turn out. It’s not easy to do, but that’s the only way to surrender to the flow. And adaptability requires the willingness to surrender. Thanks again for a thoughtful post!

    Alice Chan recently posted..The Accidental WinnersMy Profile

  24. November 16, 2012

    Marty, Yes, change is inevitable and all you tips are very helpful. I too believe keeping a journal is very healthy.
    When changes are pending in my life and I am waiting for answers, I love this affirmation:
    “This situation does not dismay me. God is with me to uphold and sustain me, and to make all tings right. I trust everything in my life to the tender care of the Father. I know His will for me is Health, Happiness, Prosperity, Spiritual Unfoldment and all that is good!”
    Wonderful post!
    Thank you,
    Lynn Jones recently posted..Get Paid to Advertise with The Online Ad NetworkMy Profile

  25. November 16, 2012

    Lots of great thoughts there, Marty! As you say, letting go is the secret, but it’s often difficult because we are so attached to particular outcomes that when they don’t materialize we either feel cheated or blame ourselves.

    I have a notice in my office that I read at least once a week that says:
    “Everything happens exactly the way its’ supposed to, and some things just aren’t to my personal taste.”

    It’s a great reminder for me …

    Alan Jenkin recently posted..Are You Ready for the Financial Crisis?My Profile

  26. November 16, 2012

    Hi Marquita!

    It’s been a awhile since I’ve been to your blog! I’ve missed it. I am a Futuristic Marketing Alliance team member and we were very busy competing in marketing games during the past couple of months. It definitely consumed a lot of my time but the games are over and I’m adapting to having more time again!

    What an excellent post on adaptability. Wow! I didn’t realize how adaptable I am until this past year. I believe you are aware of my transition of moving from California to Idaho which was a complete 360. Reading your post made me realize how much I have grown! Change isn’t easy, but it can be wonderful if you have learned how to relax and take what comes. I have. Currently, I consider myself a very adaptable person.

    I’ve narrowed my response to three nuggets you mentioned in the strategy to help you become more adaptable. All of them are excellent.

    1) Awareness is first and foremost. It wasn’t until I became aware that I had difficulty in adapting that I was able to take the steps that I needed to change. All of the other strategies cannot be addressed without awareness.

    2) Accepting you cannot control everything. I used to believe I could control everything but it didn’t take long getting through many challenges in my life to realize, I can’t. This realization came because I’ve worked hard on personal development and understanding myself. Once I got to that point, I felt a huge burden was lifted, and now it is much easier to let go of fear and adapt to change. I really understand the concept that life is change, and it makes everything so much easier!

    3) Keeping a journal is an excellent way for me to understand some of the thoughts I have and it helps release fear so it helps getting through change much easier! The older I get, the more changes there are, but I accept the change and adapt.

    Some people are more adaptable by nature, but I also believed it is learned by conquering life’s challenges and taking time to understand yourself by studying personal development. The more challenges, the more adaptable you become. That is my experience! Thanks…tons of value!

    Raena Lynn
    Raena Lynn recently posted..How To Become A Millionaire From ScratchMy Profile

    • November 16, 2012

      Welcome back Raena and thank you so much for sharing you awesome story! Yes, I am aware of the transition you’ve been going through this year. In fact, were your ears burning the other day? I was working on a few of my travel arrangements for my spring vacation and it occured to me that I’ll be in Idaho and wouldn’t it be a very cool thing to actually meet you live and in person for a cup of coffee. Anyway, so glad you enjoyed the article and I really appreciate all the terrific feedback. :-)

  27. November 16, 2012

    great post and essential most times along our pathway of life.

    You are so true that we seem to adapt easy to small stuff (as the example you shared) and some how we are not as great to adapt when comes to the heavy stuff.

    Your recommendations are all valid and I like to thank you sharing these since several are new to me.

    For certain as life go on, yoru post and recommendations will come handy..

    Thanks so much in many ways.
    Nick Catricala recently posted..Heart Attack – How To Avoid ItMy Profile

    • November 16, 2012

      Mahalo for your kind words Nick – always a pleasure to welcome you back and I appreciate your contribution to the conversation!

  28. November 16, 2012

    Hi Marty,

    Adaptability is my second name! I have moved to so many different places in my life, I found it easy to adapt to people, cultures, etc.

    But, now as the world is changing so quickly, adaptation is the key to survival. Without getting into the world’s problems and changes in governments that are going on, we need to adapt and do it quickly.

    My way of doing it is focusing on me and what I can do to survive the best way I can. Also to plan ahead. I know I have no control over things that I cannot control and that is the secret to avoid stress.

    Just be in control of myself and that’s all I can do. Then I know I could adapt to just about anything.

    Donna Merrill recently posted..Overcoming OverwhelmMy Profile

    • November 16, 2012

      Hey Donna, welcome back and thanks so much for sharing. While your comment about adaptability being your second name made me smile, I can clearly see that in you and think that you provide such a terrific example to the people around you, and those fortunate enough to find their way to your awesome blog :-)

  29. November 16, 2012

    Oh Marty,

    I do wish you would come and speak to the French government who are so slow to adapt to change and make changes that I fear it will be the down fall of France. Great topic take aways for many in there! :)
    Sadie-Michaela Harris recently posted..Big Trends in UK Mobile 2012My Profile

    • November 16, 2012

      Hey girl, just get me on a plane! I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited your country twice – loved it so much, the second time I cancelled my flight to Spain, just to spend more time in your French countryside – so hopefully those guys in your government get their act together!

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