In this episode of the Mind For Life Podcast, we address the topic of how to become more adaptable. Science has shows that adaptability is an important quality for leaders, but more importantly, it’s a quality that can help us all to live a happier, more fulfilled, and more successful life.
This podcast is based on adaptability as one of the 52 essentials skills for success in business and life. If you would like to join us for this 52-week personal development journey, just follow the steps listed below. Additionally, a transcript of this podcast is available below or you can download it here:
Join the Essential Skills Course:
- Download the Essential Skills Personal Assessment and complete it. The assessment helps you to recognize your areas of strength and the areas for improvement. This provides a base from which you can move forward.
- Join the Mind For Life Essential Skills Facebook Group. As I’m sure you know, any resolution or personal growth plan works better when you are in it with other people. The Facebook group provides accountability, support, and encouragement to keep going. It also enables us to explore these skills together and creates a mastermind group that will benefit us all.
How To Become More Adaptable – Podcast Transcript
Hello everybody welcome once again to the mind for live podcast. I’m your host Jeff Bogaczyk. And here we talk about some things that will help you to think learn and live a little bit better.
So glad you joined us today and we are continuing in our 52 Essential Skills series where we talk about the 52 essential skills for success in life and business and if you are interested in finding out what those essential skills are I encourage you to go to our website mindforlife.org and right over the start here button there’s a drop down box that gives you a resource tab to all of the resources that I have been curating around these 52 essential skills and you can check that out there.
There’s a link to the article that basically gives you an outline of what those 52 essential skills are and the basic premise is this: each week this year I want to work on and focus on and learn about one of these 52 essential skills and so we’ve already talked about self-confidence, we’ve talked about living in balance, and now today we are going to be talking about becoming more adaptable; becoming more adaptable. And before we get into that let me mention just a couple of quick things. First of all the show notes for this program are at mindforlife.org/049. It’s hard to believe I’m already on the 49th episode of this podcast but mindforlife.org/049 and you can find the show notes and we are now including a transcript of this entire podcast. If you don’t have time to listen but you like to say let me go and read through the transcript you can do that.
It is all available free online. There’s also the opportunity for you to download that in PDF form at the Web page mindforlife.org/049. There will be a link there for you to just click on and download the PDF version of the transcript of this podcast and encourage you to check that out.
Also you’re more than welcome to join us on this journey. The Essential Skills course is available and free for anybody who wants to join. So go to mindforlife.org/049. There will be links that will tell you how to join it. There is a free 52 essential skills assessment that you can download and go through and determine what you are doing well at when it comes to the 52 essential skills. And what of those skills you need work in and we have broken those down into five basic categories and maybe you’ll find that one of those categories maybe in the category of interpersonal or maybe in the category of self-management, one of those categories you’re really struggling and that will be the area that you should be able to focus on for this year 2018. So that’s a great tool for you. You can fill that out. You can give that to one of your close friends to have them fill that out about you and to assess what you’re good at and what you’re not good at where you are really strong and where you need some work so that’s available.
And we also have a Facebook group. So as we go through the week and I find nice and interesting resources about our topic for the week I post them to our Facebook group and we also give you the listener and everyone else who’s a part of this program and going through this together the opportunity to share some interesting resources on that topic so you can join that Facebook group and just kind of lurk in the shadows and check out the information or be willing to participate and contribute to the group whatever you want to do. The link to join that group is at mindforlife.org/049 and all of the resources and everything are there.
Also all of the resources that we have compiled for this entire Essential Skills course is available on our website. So if you go to mindforlife.org/049 there will be a link to the 52 pages or the 52 Essential Skills resource page and you can find all of the resources right now. It’s not that large because we’ve only gone through 3 of the 52 essential skills but as we get further into this it is going to be an incredible resource for you if you want to learn about a specific essential skill or understand it a little bit better. You can do that.
When you join the course we get you on the email list and the e-mail list allows you to think about some reflective… I give some reflective questions that we can ask you about assessing your own self in one of these areas and maybe give you some opportunities to practice that skill in practical ways so when you join the course and download the essential skills assessment we get you on that mailing list and so all of that can be found mindforlife.org/049.
All right let’s get into it. Today we want to talk about the practical steps for becoming more adaptable. How do you become more adaptable and maybe we should start by answering the question why is it important for you to become more adaptable. Well scientific research shows that’s when a leader is adaptable when a leader is flexible when a leader is versatile, that quality is a great contributor to the perception of the success or the perception of the competence of that leader. So leaders that are adaptable leaders that know how to maneuver and handle the changes that come into the business or into the organization that quality is a indicator of the competency and the effectiveness and if you want to call it the success of that leader.
So being able to deal with change is a great quality but not just for leaders. For everyone else as well. Why? Let me give you three reasons. Number one circumstances. The circumstances in your life are always changing. Nothing remains the same.
Number two the people in your life are always changing. Why is that? Because they are adapting to the changing circumstances in their lives and therefore they are changing circumstances are changing. People are changing.
And number three you are always changing. I’m always changing we are always changing in the same way that other people are changing when they adapt to circumstances when life changes when life throws them curve balls or even in the daily in and out duties in things we do in life and the experiences that we have in life. All of those things influence and affect us and they cause us to change. So life is changing.
It was the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who said this life is flux and that doctrine of change was an acknowledgment or maybe even a recognition that everything around us is always changing. In other words, and one of the common myths attributed quotes that was given to him was the only constant in life is change. We don’t necessarily know that he exactly said that although his writings do suggest that the one thing that we know about life the one thing other than the fact that we all will die and we all will pay taxes, right, the one thing we know is that everything is always changing, the circumstances in your life are always changing. One day things are going a certain way and the next something happens. Everything changes you lose a job. You get a raise. Your friend has a problem or a difficulty. Your relationship takes a turn in one way or the other because something happened to that other person. Life is always changing. Even the very very smallest things that you think may not really be that important. Those small things can have a huge influence and can affect a great change in your life.
When I was younger I remember having a conversation with a friend of mine and in that conversation the friend suggested Hey you know you might be good at this that might be something you want to look into. And at the time I thought right. But when I went back home I started thinking a little bit deeper. I was like wow that might be something I might be interested in I might explore a little bit more and I did. And that little conversation that little thaw that was placed in my head really changed the course of my whole life. Right. It really redirected me. And in that redirection you know I went to a different college and at college I found a lovely woman that I married and we had kids and we ended up in a particular geographic location and all of those things all of those major, major milestones and events would have been totally different if that conversation hadn’t taken place.
So that little thing really kind of, you know, turned the tide if you will of my life and I might not have thought one way or the other about it but in looking back I can recognize that. Maybe you have something in your own life that you can look back and see a small event maybe a conversation maybe something someone close to you a professor or a family friend or a mentor or a parent or somebody said to you that really changed the trajectory of your life. Those small things have incredible power to make momentous changes in our life and circumstances are always changing and when circumstances change we naturally adapt.
Now here’s the thing, we usually don’t recognize when we adapt. And there’s two types of adaptation. I talk about this in my article and you can find that at the Web site mindforlife.org. It’s called Becoming more adaptable. Three practical steps to becoming more adaptable and that’s right there so go ahead and click on that if you like. But one of the things that we know is our bodies are continually adapting to our environment in two ways. Maybe you would call them structurally and behaviorally.
Structurally deals with the physical adaptations and so we know that’s when our bodies are forced to do things physically they naturally adapt to it. So for example if you’ve never lifted weights and you go out and lift weights you’ll find this incredible pain right. You will, you’re hurt but the more that you do it what happens? Your muscles adapt. They begin to build up, your bones adapt they begin to get denser. Right. They begin to become stronger and your body just naturally adapts to the pressure of the environment.
I was watching a video of guitarists that I really really enjoy listening to Tommy Emmanuel. And so if you’re out there check out Tommy Emmanuel on YouTube he’s phenomenal. But he was talking about how when he practices the guitar and through the years of practicing the guitar, literally the structure and the bones in the ligaments in his hands have changed to adapt to how he plays. Right, his fingers are able to do things that normal fingers can’t do because of constantly putting pressure on those to adapt and to play the guitar and so his left hand has literally formed differently when it comes to its physical structure than his right hand because they are doing two different things when it comes together to playing guitar. And so his hands have adapted just over time and through pressure and through repetition, right? Those things have changed.
One of the examples that I give in the article is that just by being exposed to the force of gravity our bodies adapt, our bodies change, they shrink, our spines compress. And I share the story of the astronaut who was just up in space for a year or so and after having been up there for so long and not being exposed to the effects of gravity he literally grew like two inches.
And there are effects that happen and change us physically. And guess what we don’t usually recognize it. It’s just kind of happens. We don’t know that we’re shrinking. We see we see that through time, progressively, people as they get older they begin to shrink and they begin to, you know, the effects of gravity take their toll. When people do things for a long period of time, right? If you swing a hammer with one hand for a long period of time, that’s your job, you’ll find that your arm on one side gets bigger than your arm and the other side, you know. And so all of these structural adaptations take place and they usually take place when we don’t recognize it because it’s kind of below the surface of our conscious awareness.
When we talk about behavioral adaptation these are like the just the way we act. The way we think, the way we react, and we all, we go, we undergo structural adaptations but we experienced behavioral adaptations. And some of those are ones that take place unconsciously: we get a new job so we adapt to a different schedule. Right, maybe you have a job or you have to work night turn and all of a sudden you have to adapt to different schedule, your body adapts. Over time when we implement a habit, it forces a behavioral adaptation. When we have a habit, it forces a behavioral adaptations so if you want to start going to the gym, if you do it over a long period of time and you’re consistent with it you start to develop the habit. If you want to stop smoking, if you want to start eating healthy, whatever it is, these behavioral adaptations the changes of our behavior, the changes the way we act, the changes in the way we think are also things that take place.
Now when it comes to adaptation and you might think of it as being flexible you know adaptability as a characteristic or quality as being flexible. A quality of being versatile. Right. I’m not necessarily going with the flow but being able to manage the flow and to work with in the flow that happens in your life. I don’t want to think of ourselves necessarily as a feather or just floating on the wind going in whatever direction the wind goes, but maybe maybe a controlled airplane that when the wind blows in a specific direction we can turn and go with it. But also use the wind in the way, the way that it’s directing us to propel us in a specific direction. So adaptability is dealing effectively with the changes that take place in your life. Right.
How do you how do you manage those changes? Now for some people it’s very difficult when you introduce a change into someone’s life. Some people are not adaptable. They get anxious, they get nervous, they don’t know how they’re going to deal with it. It starts to have effects on them emotionally. Right. And other people are just more adaptable, that, you know, they just kind of… OK I get this and now I can manage it.
Now I think about adaptability in two ways. Number one, when you think about adaptability as an attitude and number two, I want to think about adaptability as a habit. And so when we think about adaptability as an attitude we think about being adaptable as a mindset. In other words, what do we think about ourselves when it comes to responding to changes and different situations and circumstances and environments in our life?
Some people’s attitude of adaptability is one of I’m not going to respond well to that. Other people have a different attitude when it comes to adaptability that says OK let’s welcome the changes, they may not be very great, but we’re going to welcome them, we’re going to work within them. So how we approach that.
It’s a process of thinking now. This is an interesting concept because one of the things that we must recognize is that our brains are made to be adaptable. And the term for that is neuroplasticity and what neuroplasticity means is that, previously scientists believed that the brain was plastic. When they say plastic they mean mold-able, changeable. They believed that the brain was plastic only through childhood and that it became a little bit more concrete or a little bit more solid into our older adult years. But what they found and what research has shown is that the brain is plastic even into the adult years. And so we’ve often thought that, oh yeah, once we hit adulthood we are set in our ways we can’t change we can’t do anything different that’s not true. Our brains are plastic. Our brains can be molded and in fact they are always being molded and adapting to changing circumstances in our life already.
So neuroplasticity. And what happens is when we have a specific behavior we do things a certain way or we think a certain way. You talk about a behavioral way of thinking. What’s taking place on the neurological level is that a series, or a path of neurons is being enacted. So when you behave in a certain way when you respond in a certain way there’s a neural network or a neural path that is being, maybe you could say walked down, right. Your brain is walking down this neural path and the more you ignite those neural networks through the same type of thinking or through the same type of action the stronger they get.
And there’s a video that kind of explains this in a real basic way which is linked in the resources page and I encourage you to take a look at that. But neuroplasticity shows us that if you stop going down that path, in other words, if you break it off and you stop thinking in a particular way you stop doing a specific behavior and you start doing something else you’ll find that that neural network gets weaker and the new one gets stronger. Your brain changes, it literally gets rewired.
And so when we think about our thoughts on adaptability. In other words our attitude, right, our thoughts toward being adaptable if our thoughts are: No I’m not going to respond well to change. No I don’t like change. No I’m not going to welcome change in my life if that’s our thoughts, that’s a neural network that’s being ignited every time change happens. And we just start to automatically think that and the stronger it gets the more difficult it is to get out of that. So what do you have to do? You have to change your thinking and if you change your thinking, if you start to think intentionally in a different way, then you start to welcome change, you start to say I’m going to respond well to change and you force yourself down a different neural path.
The more you do that the stronger it gets, the more habitual it gets. And the other one kind of gets weaker and you don’t think automatically in that way. That’s how you kind of like, rewire your brain when it comes to your autopilot or your default thoughts and your default settings. Right. So instead of when change happens you automatically think oh my gosh I’m not going to respond well to this I’m going to, you know, I’m going to get nervous, I’m going to get tense, I’m going to push it off I’m not going to welcome in in my life. That’s just the thinking pattern and that can be changed because your brain is plastic. Neuroplasticity says that thinking pattern can be changed. How how do you do it?
You do it through time and repetition by thinking in a different way. The more you think in a different way the more you start to force yourself to welcome things you can change your attitude towards it. And now it becomes, as the neural network in the pathway gets stronger gets more well trodden if you want to use that term, as it gets that way and the other one kind of gets weaker right then it becomes a habitual pattern.
So you’re are already adaptable. Your brain is already…you might say I can’t change. I’m telling you biologically, neurologically your brain is mold-able, your brain is plastic. You can change. Now it’s not easy. If those neural paths are well established in your mind, those thinking patterns are well established in your mind. It takes work it takes effort to start to change those patterns but it can be done. So the first step is developing an attitude of adaptability developing an attitude of versatility developing an attitude of flexibility changing your thinking about how you respond and deal with change. That’s the first step.
The second thing you want to talk about is the habit of adaptability. When we talk about the habit of adaptability, I’m talking less about your attitude towards it and more about your actions. What do you do when change comes in your life? How do you act? So when we talk about making adaptability a habit one of the things I think you can do is to commit yourself to being adaptable to recognizing change into welcoming change in your life.
So the more that you say OK I’m going to force myself to be adaptable, I’m going to put myself and put my life in positions where I have to deal with change, the more you put yourself into those positions and force yourself to deal with those circumstances in those situation,s the more you do that the more it just becomes a habit. So rather than being content and kind of playing it safe and kind of, you know, staying in the boat, so to speak, force yourself on to new terrain. Force yourself into new avenues. Do new things. Challenge yourself.
Every challenge… What is it? It’s a new pressure on you by the environment. And the longer you do it the more you are able to adapt to that environment. So when you say I’m going to force myself to do this even though it takes a lot of effort and I may not like it and why don’t we like it? We don’t usually like it because it’s not easy when we challenge ourselves. The word challenge in itself means that we’re you know stepping outside of areas that we’re comfortable with and doing things that are a little bit more difficult than what we’re used to. And so when you challenge yourself, what do you do? You put yourself in a position where environmental pressures are on you that you’re not used to and you have to be able to respond to those pressures and adapt to those pressures.
So every challenge you do forces you to be adaptable. I remember listening to a gentleman talking about a podcast and his podcast was something like I’m going to force myself into rejection. So I learn how to handle it better. And so what he would do was, you know, instead of going in… this is, you know, interesting. But when he went to Walmart to buy something he would ask the person at the counter hey can you give me a 10 percent discount on this at Walmart. And he knew pretty well that that person would say no I can’t. Well that’s a rejection and when you force yourself into positions where you’re going to be rejected, it forces, it helps you to adapt to rejection and you don’t have as great a fear of rejection when you experience it more.
And so when you put yourself in new situations, when you put yourself in new environments, when you put yourself in new circumstances, it forces you to develop a habit of adaptability.
What I’ve learned about adaptability is it’s first of all an attitude. It’s first of all how we think about dealing with change in our life. And then number two it’s making it a regular part of our life, making it a habit in our life. And how do you do that to change your attitude? You have to force yourself to think in new ways to create new neural paths, new neural networks that get stronger over time. You change your attitude by changing your thinking, by taking already established thought patterns and forcing yourself to think differently. And as you, over time think differently, that pathway, that neural network gets strengthened while the other one kind of shrivels up and dies and you change your habitual thinking pattern number one.
And then number two you challenge yourself to do new things. You challenge yourself to do uncomfortable things you challenge yourself to step outside of the safe zones and into new environments. And the more you do that, the more you regularly do that, the more you develop a habit of adaptability, I think maybe the reason we’re afraid of change…number one it’s hard. Right. But we just kind of fear the word, we don’t it’s maybe a fear of the unknown we don’t know what’s coming. Well if we force ourselves regularly into a habit of change, into a habit of adaptability if we force ourselves, if we put ourselves in new contexts, if we force ourselves to step outside what’s familiar, into the unfamiliar we start to learn that it’s not that fearful out there. You don’t have to be afraid of that. It’s not that bad you, can handle it. It gives you more confidence and enables you to develop a habit of adaptability in your life.
I’ve been watching Running Wild with Bear Grylls. If you’ve not seen that, it’s an interesting show. Bear Grylls who is a, you know, a mountaineering and outdoor expert, he takes these celebrities on these very challenging hikes. And he places them outside of their comfortable environment which is you know making movies in Hollywood or whatever, it is singing songs as a star or whatever, and he puts them in a challenging situation where where he forces them to adapt. And when you watch that you see these people that are fearful and like, I’m not going to do that. I’m not, I’m not climbing down the mountain. But he says you’re going to climb down the mountain I’m going to be right here for you. And what you learned through that is when you go through the experience you recognize it’s not as bad as you thought it was.
And so putting yourself in new environments challenge yourself to do new things. You have a fear of the unknown. You don’t know what it’s going to be but I promise you, it’s not as bad as you think it will be. And it will be a benefit for you, will be a learning experience for you. So I want to encourage you to change your habit of adaptability and to change your attitude of adaptability. The way to do that…time and repetition. You can change. Your brain is wired to change. You can do it.
Well that’s all for this podcast. I hope it has been beneficial to you. I want to thank you so much for listening. I’ll remind you once again that the show notes for this podcast with all of the links to some of the things that we’ve talked about the resource page for the 52 Essential Skills course how you can join up and get involved in that as well as a transcript. You can even download a PDF transcript of this podcast that’s all available at mindforlife.org/049. And we are excited for 49 episodes and next week we will be coming out with episode number 5 0. So we encourage you to join us for that.
Thanks so much for listening. I really really appreciate it. It’s been great to talk to you today. And we will talk to you next time.