Navigating life’s challenges requires one key thing: adaptability.
Stress is an inevitable part of life, but we wouldn’t grow or develop without a certain amount of discomfort. Yet, in our modern world, we’re under such extreme pressure that stress has become a chronic issue.
I’m sure we can all agree that 2020 has been the kind of stressful year we thought we’d only witness in a post-apocalyptic movie. Nevertheless, we survived a year that we’ll remember as the “COVID-19 pandemic year” — and this pandemic has no clear end in sight. You may be wondering — what do you need to do to manage this stress and these changing times?
I’ve done a lot of research on dealing with stress. Ironically, my research wasn’t ever supposed to be about adaptability. I was looking for the answer to the question, “What is the one skill necessary for an awesome life?” It turns out that the answer is adaptability.
What Is Adaptability?
Adaptability is the capacity to adjust to changes in certain circumstances and new conditions. This is essential as there’s one thing that we know about life: things change. Adaptability is crucial to being able to adjust to the ever-changing cycles of our lives without the kind of confusion and resistance that causes unnecessary stress. Humans adapt through what I call nature’s most powerful gift “neuroplasticity.” We ALL have the hardwiring and ability to adapt regardless of age, circumstances, and even mental health issues.
Why Adaptability Is Crucial
We aren’t the only ones who rely on adaptability. Animals are continually adapting to changing circumstances to survive and thrive. Viruses are modifying, too, which is what’s gotten us to the place we now find ourselves in.
It makes sense, then, that we must also be adaptable to survive.
But adaptability isn’t purely about survival. It’s also about having a high-quality, or awesome, life.
Adaptability can help us in a few key ways:
- It can help us remain calm and focused even in confusing and new situations.
- It allows us to find jobs and careers we’re passionate about and satisfied with, despite stressful or new conditions.
- It can help us raise our children, even when we feel overwhelmed and underprepared.
- It can help us innovate and develop individually and collectively.
- It can aid us in adjusting to changing circumstances during a global pandemic.
- It can help us adapt and change to become better versions of ourselves.
I believe adaptability is crucial because it comes with a kind of humility. It’s the awareness that no amount of planning or preparation can ready us for the unforeseen. It reminds us that we’re a small part of a bigger picture and also that we are resilient at our core.
Ways to Be More Adaptable
Humans have an innate drive for neuroplasticity. We have always been good at adjusting to new environments and innovating to push the envelope. On the flip side, we’ve also been very good at neglecting the basics. Nothing illustrates this more than our astounding achievements in technology and consequent technology addictions.
Taking care of the basics and not replacing them with unhealthy habits and interests is crucial to our ability to adapt. To be more adaptable in these uncertain and stressful times, remember the basics of neuroplasticity with the acronym POD.
Think of a dolphin POD. Dolphin’s do these 3 activities every day, making them among the world’s most adaptable creatures. Dolphins are mammals that need oxygen to survive yet live underwater, that is how powerful these 3 activities are.
Play activates our brain’s frontal part, stimulating pathways for abstract thinking, emotional regulation, problem-solving, and strategy — all things that help with adaptability. Dolphins play every day even though they live in an ocean surrounded by sharks and other predators like humans
Social connection is a fundamental part of a balanced life. We’ve seen the negatives of isolation in many instances, this pandemic being one. We must remain connected in safe and responsible ways. Meaningful social bonding lights up the brain and can motivate you to adapt. Dolphins know that the strength of their pod determines their own survival.
Rest and relaxation are crucial as downtime is when we adapt. These resting periods allow our bodies to slow down our thoughts to improve focus, memory, and concentration. It allows for more life satisfaction and reduces stress. Dolphins sleep by alternating their brain hemispheres!
All these things are what’s needed to be flexible to changes.
Adapting is how we thrive in this life — to steer the changes of today. It’s the essential ingredient in managing the stress and uncertainty of parenthood, career changes, and global pandemics. I forgot the power of these activities myself. After the age of 40, I was hit with an underlying genetic condition of low collagen production that I did not know I had. I became very ill with chronic pain in my body and anxiety and depression in my mind. When I hit pause in my own life and stopped making stress and “busy-ness” a symbol of importance, I could take care of myself again and I began to adapt. I began to play again, and I found new ways of dealing with my body. I found new passions in myself. When I connected, I found a new purpose, and when I rested, I found balance. All this helped me adapt to my new life as a parent, and it has continued to help me adjust to changes in my life. I know it can help you, too.
If you’re looking for help adapting to change or educating your team to be more adaptable, I’d love to work with you as a speaker and facilitator. Get in touch today, and let’s start working together.