The book “Life of Pi,” by Yann Martel is an excellent representation of adaptability. It shows how your circumstances force you to evaluate or reinvent perspectives in life and the choices you’ve made.
Sometimes these evaluations or reinventions are done by choice. Other times they’re forced upon you – asking you to become adaptable.
Some of them may be significant and difficult.
- Getting married
- Having kids
- Starting your own business
- Overhauling your nutritional habits
- Ending a relationship
- Losing a loved one
- Staring college
- Taking a trip around the world
- Moving from one state to another and starting fresh
Other times they may feel small and insignificant.
Either way, your ability to adapt to these situations and become comfortable with the ever-changing circumstances in your life will influence your happiness, health, stress, and well-being.
How can you and I learn the power of adaptability so that we are ready, willing, and able to take on any change – big or small that comes our way?
WHAT IS ADAPTABILITY?
Adaptability is your ability to move in a given direction at any time. This may mean physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually.
- It’s your willingness to learn, make mistakes, and learn some more.
- It’s your ability to render adequate feedback and make adjustments or changes in your behaviors that produce positive and productive results.
Most of us walk into any new situation with a set of prejudices about what we think is possible. These prejudices can come from past personal experiences, other people’s experiences, or mistaken beliefs.
We then form rules about what will happen based on these beliefs and those rules typically affect the choices or actions that we take.
Whether it’s changing your diet, starting a relationship with someone, or taking a new job. We go into every situation with a set of expectations, requirements, and desires.
- Expectations: Where we assume what will happen
- Requirements: What we need to actually happen
- Desires: What we want to happen
The power to adapt to any situation in life lies in getting clear on what these expectations, requirements, and desires actually are.
It’s about closing the gap between the risks that we see in the changes that are happening – And all of the opportunities we’d like to seize from those risks.
WHY IS ADAPTABILITY SO IMPORTANT?
In a world that is constantly evolving and changing. Your ability to adapt can increase your chances of being successful in your career, relationships, health, and more.
In life, we will always experience unpleasant and uncomfortable things. Some of these things are within our control. While others are not. Like Pi Patel’s raft, adaptability ensures that we stay afloat with things are to bring us down. Allowing us to bounce back from inevitable failures.
And the more adaptability we show, the more confident we become. Instead of running away from challenges, discomfort, and change. We learn how to embrace them, befriend them, and use them for personal growth. We build resiliency and grit.
If you have a dream, a goal, a quest. You’re going to have to be relentless in your pursuit. You’re going to have to push through pain, fight with adversity, and challenge yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. Becoming adaptable is essential in your pursuits.
Everyone has their owns struggles, weaknesses, and demons to fight. Those that come out on top practice being adaptable.
WHY WE SOMETIMES SUCK AT ADAPTABILITY
Well, because it’s sort of hard isn’t it?
Adaptation often requires you to stop following the status quo, to get out of your comfort zone, or to break routines.
That comfort zone of ours helps us to decrease stress, reduce anxiety, and keeps us from taking risks. In reality, it’s not all bad. We need our comfort zone every once in a while. That grilled cheese and tomato soup on a cold day if you will.
If you’re ok with living in your comfort zone for the rest of your days there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. It’s safe and secure and I can’t blame you. You can actually stop reading now if you’d like. The rest of the article might not be of much use to you.
However, if you’re looking to continually grow, challenge yourself, and embrace some of the uncomfortable then keep reading.
For any of you looking to become the best version of yourself – it will be your ability to embrace the uncertainty that comes with stepping out of your comfort zone and adapting to the changes that are necessary to excel.
ADAPTABILITY CAN BE FOUND OUTSIDE OF OUR COMFORT ZONE
You already know all about your comfort zone. It’s safe and secure, comfortable, normal, easy, and reliable. It’s full of Moms homemade apple pie, a warm cozy bed with your favorite stuffed animal, Unicorns, and butterflies. Surrounding your comfort zone are other places know as the learning zone, panic zone, and magic zone.
Want more simple fitness and practical life advice?
THE LEARNING ZONE
This is where your dreams are. Where ambitions and goals hang out and party. It’s exciting, sometimes a little dangerous, challenging, and full of opportunity and ability.
THE PANIC ZONE
This is where frustration, fatigue, tension, anxiety, and stress kick it. It’s like the bad part of town you never really want to go into if you don’t have to.
THE MAGIC ZONE
This is right on the edge of learning and panic.
It’s sort of like a mystical land that no one really knows much about. You hear rumors about how cool it is but not many of us know people who have been there.
Many of us would like to make it to the magic zone but then we realize how much hard work it takes and decide against it. Thinking about some of the tough stuff you might have to deal with (in the panic zone) in order to get there keeps us from trying
Gary Gagliardi tells us that to get to the Magic Zone we have to become more adaptable and that act requires great courage, tenacity, and experimentation.
Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War says that to get to this magic zone you have to be willing to expect anything and everything and admit that we might not know what we will find.
Science tells us that we should constantly be seeking to disprove ourselves in order to find better and more useful theories, solutions, and outcomes in our life. This guy tells us that a lot too.
HOW DO YOU DEMONSTRATE ADAPTABILITY?
It starts with developing a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset.
The fixed mindset is when you believe you’re either good/capable or not good/capable of something. That talent alone creates success, regardless of effort.
Characteristics of someone with a fixed mindset might include:
- Trying to hide flaws in yourself so that you can not be judged or labeled (aka the perfectionist)
- Focused on outcomes and goals like losing 20 pounds in 2 months
- Sticking to activities and other things that you know, understand or are comfortable with. Often afraid to try new things because you’re afraid of looking foolish, failing, or struggling with it.
- Avoid challenging activities because your performance or outcome in them defines who you are as a person.
- You ignore feedback or get defensive when feedback is given to you
- Threatened or often jealous of others
- You search deep inside yourself to find passion and purpose (guilty of this)
- Maybe you say things to yourself like, “I’m just not good at math.” “This is just who I am I guess.” “That’s just not me.” “I’m too old for this.” “I’m the type of person that…”
- You always feel like you know what you’re doing and never need help from anyone.
The growth mindset is when you believe that anyone can be good at anything and that your skills and abilities are because of hard work, practice, and action.
Characteristics of someone with a growth mindset might include:
- Always trying to learn something new. Especially something unfamiliar or confusing to you.
- Focused on the process of achieving goals and not the outcome like preparing healthy meals every day and working out consistently and not losing 20 pounds in 2 months.
- The belief that your passion and purpose come from handwork. Like Mark Cuban says, “Don’t follow you passion, follow your effort.” (1)
- You have a list of things you need to improve or get better at
- You accept and learn from criticism
- You’re inspired by the achievements of others
- You may say things like; “I am capable of.” “I have the ability to.” “I can learn to.”
In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck explains that basic qualities such as intelligence, talents, ability, success, and creativity are not fixed traits and that all of us have the capability of improving, growing, and achieving things we might have originally thought of as out of our control.
Dweck and her assistants conducted a study between 2 groups of elementary students. Group 1 was praised for their hard work, while Group 2 was praised for being smart.
Both groups were then given the chance to take on a very challenging assignment. The smart group was very hesitant to accept the challenge while the hard-working group was very open to try.
Of those participating in the challenge, the hard-working group ended up performing better than the smart group. The smart group was stuck in the fixed state of “being smart.” If they struggled with the challenge or did not do as well as expected it would define who they were – or no longer smart. Their fixed mindset kept them from success.
Her research over the years has shown that those with a growth mindset do better in school and in sports, are more motivated, makes more successful CEO’s, are more satisfied in relationships, and make for better parents, teachers, and coaches.
WHAT ARE ADAPTABILITY SKILLS?
Adaptability skills are traits you have that allow you to adjust to change within your environment or to circumstances.
This could be things like:
- changing ideas
And can involve soft skills like intrapersonal communication, creative thinking, and problem-solving. Withing health and fitness is might be adjusting your training, diet, and mindset while traveling when you’re stressed, or lacking sleep.
It’s the ability to experience stress, anxiety, various thoughts, and emotions. And to be able to act and adjust in the presence of them, not the absence of them.
9 STEPS FOR BECOMING ADAPTABLE
In his book Everday Survival, Lawrence Gonzales shares that the ability to adapt to any situation or change can be looked at in a few ways.
1 – THE WILLINGNESS TO SEARCH AND UNDERSTAND
To seek out different people, cultures, religions, and theories. To get away from what you assume to be right and to be willing to admit that you might just be wrong sometimes.
I could not phrase it any better than Vera Nazarian from the Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration.
It’s a fact—everyone is ignorant in some way or another.
Ignorance is our deepest secret.
And it is one of the scariest things out there, because those of us who are most ignorant are also the ones who often don’t know it or don’t want to admit it.
Here is a quick test:
If you have never changed your mind about some fundamental tenet of your belief, if you have never questioned the basics, and if you have no wish to do so, then you are likely ignorant.
Before it is too late, go out there and find someone who, in your opinion, believes, assumes, or considers certain things very strongly and very differently from you, and just have a basic honest conversation.
It will do both of you good.
2 – SOMETIMES YOU NEED TO THROW AWAY YOUR MENTAL SCRIPTS
Mental scripts are those automatic habits that make life easier for us because you never have to really think about them anymore. They remove the thought process and make things automatic. Like tying your shoe, the route you take to work, or the foods that you eat.
These come in pretty handy most often except when the necessity for change is upon you. Then these habits or routines are pretty tough to break and unfortunately, life often requires you to break them every so often.
3 – CATCHING YOURSELF IN THE ACT
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and almost immediately dismissed their opinion on a topic just because it was the opposite of yours?
Yeah, me neither.
You need to catch yourself here and become aware of why you are automatically shooting it down.
Arguments are not opportunities to prove you’re right. They’re an opportunity to learn and understand where someone else is coming from.
4 – BELIEVING YOU CAN ADAPT
Your brain is already equipped to adapt. Through neuroplasticity, your mental abilities, memory, and ability to learn are designed to improve over time. Essentially you’re already hard-wired to adapt.
5 – PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Yup, practice being adaptable by working on building the adaptability habit. Do something little to break routines every single day.
Take a new route to work, go vegetarian for a month, try a new ethnic cuisine, use your other leg to put your pants on, a new exercise routine, have lunch with a different friend or stranger even.
6 – EXERCISE CONSISTENTLY
No joke, exercise is one of the best ways to practice adaptability. By consistently doing so you are breaking down muscles and forcing them to repair, grow, and get stronger in order to accommodate your increased activity.
7 – TAKE YOUR TIME MAKING DECISION BUT ALSO SHOOT FROM THE HIP
Practice both decision-making techniques but on occasion also act on impulse. More importantly, take notes and measure which process is more successful for you.
8 – CREATE PROBLEMS INSTEAD OF WAITING FOR THEM
Anticipate failure but expect success. Becoming aware of what may go wrong can help you to prepare for it in the future. Instead of trying to figure it out on the fly, it’s a good idea to think about some obstacles you may face and to plan for them accordingly.
- What hiccups might arise when trying to start exercising?
- What might hinder your progress when trying to establish healthy eating habits?
- If you take this new job what are some things that may have to change?
9 – KNOW THE RULES BUT ALSO KNOW WHEN TO BREAK THEM
In the book The Big Picture: Essential Lessons From The Movies an example of Babe the pig is given. Babe doesn’t succeed by acting the way a pig is supposed to, Babe finds success because he breaks the rules and acts with manners, politeness, and a different outlook. The exact opposite of what you’d expect from a pig.
“…The father of the modern automobile, founder of the Ford Motor Company, and inventor of the moving assembly line was a highly unconventional business leader. Henry Ford challenged his times (and his investors) by insisting on producing affordable automobiles for a mass market. He paid his employees much more than was common at the time, creating what he called “wage incentive” and thereby attracting and keeping a strong workforce. Advocating “welfare capitalism,” Ford took an unusual amount of interest in the lives of his employees, requiring them to live according to the rules set by his “Sociological Department,” which restricted how they spent their leisure hours. His risks paid off, and Ford Motor Company has helped define the modern urban landscape…” – Businesspundit.com
10 – DON’T WASTE YOUR ENERGY ON EVERY CHALLENGE
Save some of your mojo for the really big important stuff. Why fight certain battles when you can simply go around them. Save your energy for the big stuff that doesn’t have roads surrounding them.
WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF ADAPTABILITY?
Taking on different roles and responsibilities like getting married, having kids, or accepting a new job promotion. Spending a year studying abroad or moving to a new country (or even city). Working and going to school full-time is a great example of being adaptable.
Forgetting your meal prep and making it work on the fly. Or running late and not doing your full workout but finding a way to sneak in a 10-minute bodyweight circuit instead.
These are just a few of many.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON ADAPTABILITY
The ability to take action without knowing the outcome. And to act without expectation is a driving force for becoming more adaptable in your life.
There is seldom a perfect outcome to any situation but you can create better experiences for yourself by using the power of adaptability.
We’re constantly evolving. Let’s not fight that but instead, embrace the changes, experiences, and lessons that we’re learning daily.
Let go of any of all the personal limitations you may place upon yourself. There are far too many examples of people doing extraordinary things and overcoming major hurdles. If you take a look at your own timeline I’m sure you can find a few triumphs of your own.
In his book Adaptability: The Art of Winning in an Age of Uncertainty, author Max McKeown mentions that people have a knack for putting up with awful circumstances or unhappy situations simply because it’s what they’ve always known or is comfortable for them.
Break that mold by becoming adaptable.
“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change”. – Charles Darwin