Rarely in life do we get to make all the rules. If you want to peacefully exist in civilized society, you need to learn to be adaptable to one degree or another. In fact, much research has shown that the more flexible you are, the more successful you will be.
In the book “Grit,” Angela Duckworth suggests that the people who achieve the most in life aren’t necessarily the most talented. Rather, they are the hardest workers who can adapt and adjust to change. In other words, they work hard and don’t give up.
I have the StrengthsFinder Theme of Adaptability and am unusually good at dealing with unexpected change…most of the time. When something doesn’t go according to plan, my mind immediately begins cycling through all the ways I could make [it] work with what I have available. Recently I was setting up to do a podcast recording with someone and realized I forgot a key piece of equipment. I immediately began cycling through the various ways I could use what I had with me to make it work. I never get flustered in those situations, rather, I see them as opportunities to overcome a challenge. I like to think I’m kind of like MacGyver in that way.
Then again, I can think of plenty of situations when I simply get stuck when dealing with unexpected change. Over time, this has become less and less frequent because I am learning how to become better at dealing with the unexpected.
I know plenty of people who are simply not good when things come up that they weren’t expecting. Too often, they use the language of Strengths as a way to explain their lack of flexibility. Rather than using your seemingly non-flexible Strengths as an excuse, below are three simple things all of us can do to be more adaptable and flexible, and handle the changes around us more gracefully.
1. Plan Ahead
The best time to plan anything is before you actually need to do that thing. Before your next project, think through how your combination of Strengths come to your aid when things don’t go as planned. Does your Theme of Maximizer only settle for the best? Does your Communication want to talk through every detail? Does your Ideation bounce a million different ideas around? If you’re working on a team, how can you communicate your Strengths with your teammates to help them understand your response to change?
Of course, we can’t plan for every contingency, but by thinking through a few alternate scenarios ahead of time, you won’t be caught totally off guard. There’s an old military saying that states, “Expect the best, plan for the worst.”
2. Control What You Can Control
In most situations, there is always something you can control. Even if the only thing you can control is how you respond to others, at least you’ll have that to lean on. If you rely on doing your best and working hard on the things only you can control, you will be better suited to adapt and change as things around you continue to swirl.
This is where understanding your own Strengths comes in particularly handy. When things change, you can focus on the areas of your greatest Strength, rather than spin your wheels trying to be something you are not.
3. Get Outside Your Comfort Zone
One way to develop your adaptability is to intentionally put yourself in situations that make you uncomfortable. Experiment in small ways at first until you develop a level of comfort handling the proverbial curveballs in life. This will grow your adaptability muscle to be put to the test in more important scenarios. With enough practice, even the least adaptable person will find it easier to go with the flow.
How Adaptable Are Your Strengths?
Planning ahead, controlling what you can control, and getting out of your comfort zone will not guarantee that you will instantly become more adaptable. Rather, they are an exercise in helping you use your Strengths in ways that will allow you to make the most of a bad situation.
- What are some of the biggest ways your Strengths help you to adapt to change?
- What ways do your Strengths prevent you from adapting to change?