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Is it possible to train yourself to be adaptable?

While some people seem to have a natural ability to roll with the punches, almost everyone can train themselves to be more flexible. It just takes a little practice and dedication.

Why work on your personal adaptability?

The short answer:

Change is inevitable. You’re going to encounter change in all aspects of your life at some point or another—professional, interpersonal, and personal. So, why not be prepared?

The longer answer:

Lately, with workplaces adapting to a global pandemic, remote classroom learning, and working from home becoming the new norm, things are quite different than they used to be. All those changes have necessitated a good deal of flexibility, and I don’t see that going away anytime soon. This is new turf for many people (and companies). Parents are learning how to juggle work with their children’s distance learning. Managers are learning how to effectively interact with their teams when regular face-to-face meetings are no longer an option. Companies are figuring out how to create personalized experiences for customers through online platforms and other creative means.

Even when the current pandemic is nothing more than a memory, we are bound to encounter major changes again soon. Technology is changing at a rapid clip, public sentiments are constantly shifting, and societal norms are in constant flux. If there’s one thing you can count on in the future, it’s change.

So, how do you train yourself to adapt?

1. Challenge yourself every day

Routine is good, but it’s also healthy to break that routine every once in a while. Commit to doing one thing every day that is slightly uncomfortable for you. Maybe that means working in a new location—perhaps somewhere in your house where you don’t have a complete office setup. Maybe that means calling someone that you don’t know well (a potential client, perhaps) or someone whom you’ve been putting off calling, for whatever reason. Another way to challenge yourself is by learning a new skill. Take an online course or download an app to help you learn anything from film-making to Excel to a new language.

2. Practice letting go

A big part of becoming more adaptable is realizing that you do not have control over everything, and THAT IS OKAY. In fact, it’s good to rescind control every once in a while and let others (or circumstances) take the reins. If you find yourself in a position where you are no longer in the driver’s seat, take a deep breath and a step back. Trust that things will work out without your intervention.

To train yourself to become better at letting go, practice giving others assignments and letting them have autonomy over their projects. If you lead a team, let that team hold brainstorming or strategy sessions without you and trust that they will achieve results. They may not take the exact path you would have taken, but they will likely reach the same destination.

3. Open your mind

Mental flexibility is crucial when it comes to adaptability. It’s healthy to open yourself to a variety of perspectives and points of view, because (surprise!) you may not have all the answers. To increase your mental agility, try practicing active listening. Truly absorb and listen to what others are saying and challenge yourself to ask good questions. After the conversation, try repeating the information you learned to yourself.

Another part of mental flexibility is realizing that there is not usually one way to do things or one way of thinking about things. This realization requires a certain amount of humility. It also takes a curious mind and a willingness to learn. Be a little vulnerable and demonstrate that you are ready and eager to learn and expand your way of doing things.

Adaptability is a critical skill to have today, and it’s bound to be a critical skill tomorrow too. Even if you’re not flexible by nature, you can endeavor to train yourself to be a little more flexible. All it takes is a plan and your commitment.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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