Our friend adaptability

Kanisa George -
Kanisa George -

Kanisa George

I HAVE always said and still genuinely believe that humans are remarkably resilient. Surviving famine, wars, pandemics and all the other gruesome things that accompany human existence isn’t for the faint of heart, yet we endure.

We endure even when faced with adversity, mental anguish and, above all, the wrath of our fellow man.

At the end of it all, the power of adaptability defines us; a strength so dynamic that if we pay attention to its superiority, change and unpredictability will feel like a walk in the park.

Tapping into adaptability in difficult, stressful situations can seem just as challenging as the situation itself. Because the timing of tricky, complicated situations usually presents itself when we most need to learn, change and adapt, how we respond can either make or break us.

Often, in these uncharted, precarious moments, our old approaches aren’t best suited for growth, and adapting instead of resisting might be a more valuable ally.

Adaptability, says family therapist Nick Bognar, is the ability to integrate new information and circumstances while adjusting your behaviour accordingly. The skill of adaptability is particularly important when juxtaposed against the unpredictability of life.

Because we aren’t always the conductor of our symphony, trying to change the outcome and control things usually isn’t at our command. What we do have control over, however, is our response to the circumstances life throws at us.

While regarded as an innate quality for some, adaptability is a skill that, once tapped into, can be implemented by anyone. Yet still, we avoid it.

We demand that things remain the same, for perhaps the exact reason we don’t immediately lean towards adaptability; change can cause significant discomfort.

Therapist Sue English believes humans are biologically wired to detect and respond to potential threats within our environments. Until we allow ourselves to build trust in our new situation, we might regress to maladaptive patterns of avoiding change. Depression, rejection and denial usually become the order of the day, which can worsen when the discomfort of staying in the known becomes a reality.

The result of this stagnation can mean lost opportunities, limited personal growth, failed relationships and overwhelming feelings of failure – all of this on account of being scared to face the unknown.

And that’s OK; we’re allowed a minute to process our new reality and what that might potentially look like. What we’re not allowed to do is remain in a state of stupor far longer than is necessary and derail our lives because we aren’t ready to accept the path that lies before us.

An exciting feature of adaptability forces us to adjust our expectations and deal with reality as it comes. This can potentially reduce the development of unhealthy habits and prevent rigidity from setting in. Adaptability, one writer observed, opens up your mind to new ideas, makes you question the status quo, and gives you the willingness to go against convention.

Guy Winch believes there is so much we stand to benefit when we are willing to adapt, but none is more prominent than our happiness.

“We will always be confronted with psychological challenges in life. After waves of hopelessness, some take a bow; some courageously take on these setbacks, learn whatever lesson life gives them, and then move on with life. One fact we can’t deny is that our happiness, satisfaction and ability to build quality relationships largely depend on our adaptability skill set.”

Of course, the question now is, how do we make ourselves more adaptable?

Getting rid of the feelings accompanying hurt doesn’t come quickly and, surprisingly, can only truly begin when we sit with, confront and accept what we’ve lost. In other words, when change comes, could you take a moment to process it?

Bognar explains that we might need to give ourselves a little time to grieve. Letting go of what was requires us to accept unpleasant emotions and make room for them.

One school of thought considers cognitive restructuring as the main tool used to tap into adaptability. This process requires you to change negative thoughts by accepting what is out of your control.

Instead of thinking, “My relationship ended, no one will ever love me again,” consider, “Now I have the capacity and opportunity to discover new interests, reconnect with friends, and forge new relationships.”

Rethinking your approach by far isn’t the easiest thing to do, but tiny steps all the way to the prize might be a valuable attitude to adopt.

When difficult-to-accept change knocks us down, we are sometimes left emotionally torn, anxious and off balance. To combat this, Katie Ziskind recommends beefing up self-care practices. Whatever calms you down, drinks with friends, a massage, or reading, use these methods to help get you back on track.

We cannot fight change, but we can control our response to it. Finding ways to adapt, pivot and accept our reality is the only way to combat the confusion that can render us lifeless.

Life will continue to do its thing. So, instead of letting it consume us, allow the waves to come ashore, and you’ll be surprised by all the lessons that come along with it.


"Our friend adaptability"

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