Exploring the strength of Adaptability

I have always been a “go with the flow” kind of person. I certainly like things a my way, but when things don’t go my way, I’m not too bent out of shape. I still get upset when a plan falls through, it’s just easy to find other ways to proceed. If you resonate with that, perhaps you also have the strength of Adaptability.

I’ve taken the Strengths Finder four times over the past 10 years. Three of those times, Adaptability was in my top five. The Gallup definition of Adaptability says, “People especially talented in the Adaptability theme prefer to “go with the flow.” They tend to be “now” people who take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time.”

I also have the strength of Futuristic, so I never quite resonated with the “one day at a time” description. Over the past few years, I’ve seen how Adaptability has helped me both personally and professionally. While there is an “in the moment” component to my Adaptability, for me, there’s a “next moment” view to it as well.

Adaptability Analogy

I think of Adaptability as water coming down the side of a mountain. It starts at the top and has a goal to get to the bottom. So, it starts its decent. Where Adaptability becomes a strength is in what happens when it encounters obstacles. When there’s a boulder in the way, or a tree, it just naturally finds a way around. It doesn’t stop it’s forward motion (at least not for long). It keeps moving.

It also doesn’t freak out, stop, and move back up the mountain to try again. It’s able to adjust and adapt to its surroundings. At home, that often looks like being able to adjust expectations or plans on a moments notice. It’s also seen in the ability to help others calmly see ways around. Even if the way isn’t obvious, Adaptability believes there is a way – somewhere.

Strengths Practice with Adaptability

Like a muscle, you need to exercise your strengths for them to grow. The more you learn to use your strengths, the more effective they become. Here are three tips you can try to exercise your strength of Adaptability.

  1. Practice Zen. Adaptability is not only about going with the flow, but also about helping others to relax during chaos. The next time there is uncertainty, practice the art of helping others stay calm. What words, phrases or alternate plans might you use to help them?
  2. Make a Plan. This might sound counter-inteuative, but Adaptability isn’t about living in the moment with no regard for what is coming next. It’s about being able to adapt your plan as necessary. You can’t practice adapting a plan if you don’t have one.
  3. Have fun with your tasks. Life is full of stuff you just have to do. Instead of getting bored with it, be creative in getting things done. Try different task management systems, or list tools. Your ability to hand the unexpected will become refined by your ability to accomplish tasks that you’ve planned for. When all hell breaks loose, you’ll have more tools at your disposal to adapt to the unexpected.

For those without Adaptability, this can seem like a foreign concept. I work with someone who has a mini-melt down anytime a plan doesn’t go they way they expected. Not only am I able to help this person realize there is probably another way to proceed, but I can help them understand the sky isn’t falling a well.

How has adaptability been generative for you (or on your team)?