How to Be More Adaptable Throughout Life

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What single concept sums up all of humanity's wisdom in one go?

From the great empires on the River Nile, the freezing steppes of Mongolia, and the unforgiving ice sheets of the Arctic humans have taken it in their stride and come out on top.

This allowed us to face off against unimaginable predators and brutal environmental conditions and win the evolutionary climb to the top.

The single concept we’re referring to here is (you guessed it) adaptability.

Here’s what we’re going to cover:

  • What exactly is adaptability?
  • Why is it so integral to success and why will it only be more so as the years go on?
  • How can you become more adaptable?
  • What kind of benefits can you expect to see in your life?

The Survival of the Adaptable

Adaptability is something every living organism has access to.

It’s what allows individuals (or organizations) to respond to changes in their environment.

It’s what allowed our large-brained thumb-bearing ancestors to pick up a stick and fashion it into a lethal implement that took them from desperate scavengers to apex predators.

It’s what allows a business to change following the conditions of the economy, politics, and overall situation on the world stage.

It’s what allows an individual to excel in whatever area of life they choose, or be left behind.

  • Adaptability is being open to learning new skills and new ways of thinking.
  • Adaptability is about thriving in any environment you find yourself in.
  • Adaptability is about keeping track of changes in a world that is constantly shifting.

Adaptability is About Being Selective

While it can sound intimidating to try to stay on top of everything, that’s not what adaptability is about.

Adaptability is about subtracting rather than adding more to your life.

It’s about doing LESS but doing it the best you can.

Part of adaptability is experimenting with new things, but when you find something that works, you stick to it until it’s the best you can make it.

  • Warren Buffet famously said, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”
  • Steve Jobs once advised the new CEO of Nike to “Get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff, using the same strategy that he did to strip down the core offerings of Apple to 30 products.
  • Jeff Hoffman, one of the founders of Priceline.com, recommends picking one thing in the world you can be great at and focusing on doing it extremely well. His view is you can’t achieve excellence by trying to do six things at the same time.

Why Adaptability is More Important Than Ever

There’s only so much time available in the day, only so much energy and attention to give, so it’s important to pay attention to what works, but once you’ve found that, focus on it and discard the other options.

The way we work and do business is changing rapidly.

  • Technology is becoming more advanced and sophisticated, for example, Artificial Intelligence tools may impact as many as 40 percent of all jobs (going up to 60 percent in advanced economies).
  • This means that we’re all going to have to learn how to do things differently.
  • All of this technological change is going to bring massive opportunity, but it also requires a willingness to abandon what might have worked for you in the past.

Adaptability Action Plan

Becoming more adaptable is straightforward when you have some concrete steps you can take every day.

adaptability | how to be more adaptable | adapting to the environment
Developing greater adaptability becomes easier when you have specific actions you can incorporate into your daily routine.

However, before we talk about things you should build into your life it’s more important to start thinking about what to take away.

Subtract Before Adding

If you want to upgrade your life, it’s important to eliminate what isn’t working for you.

To give yourself the mental space and set the right conditions to be adaptable in a way that benefits you, you have to start dropping the things that don’t.

Behaviors like:

  • Watching hours of T.V. every day.
  • Hoarding possessions you don’t use.
  • Digital noise, including social media, news sites, apps, etc.
  •  Playing video games nonstop.
  • Drinking with your friends until late at night.
  • Activities you don’t enjoy.  (i.e. If you have the funds, then hire someone to handle the  chores like cleaning your house or landscaping.)
  • Obligations that don’t bring any personal fulfillment.
  • Low-value relationships that focus on negativity.
  • Anger, envy, or jealousy toward people who don’t have a direct impact on your life.
  • Negative self-talk that causes limiting beliefs and prevents you from going after what you truly desire.

Some example solutions:

  • Figuring out what TV shows you watch because you invested vs what you watch just to kill time.
  • Donating and getting rid of possessions you don't use.
  • Limiting the time you spend mindlessly scrolling, setting reminders, using Apps, etc.
  • Have a start and cut-off point for when you play video games.
  • Limit your outings to once or twice a month instead of every weekend.
  • If you hate doing taxes, hire an accountant, if your cleaning gives you stress ulcers, hire a cleaner (if you can afford it), etc.
  • Figure out ways to change obligations that you don’t like to ones that you do – for example, if you have a friend who loves martial arts but you secretly hate being beaten up, tell them and figure out a compromise.
  • Evaluate friendships, family members, employers, employees, etc, and see what you can do about it.

You can talk to friends and family members, and look for other job opportunities. If someone is having a deeply negative impact on you, take steps to take them out of your life in whatever way you can.

Just having a plan in place can be tremendously helpful.

  • Stay away from social media and content, or people that boast about how perfect life is (this is usually an illusion anyway).
  • Practise mindfulness, and pause when you have recurring negative thoughts, as you become more aware and understand their causes, they will begin to wither away.

While we’re not here to tell you not to have any hobbies or do anything fun, too much of these drain away your energy, attention, and damage your health. These are all your most important “adaptive resources.”

  • Don't try to eliminate all of your “not working for you” items at once.
  • Practice slow and gradual elimination of one thing at a time.

There are things you can do right now that will make you more adaptable to changing conditions, and you’ll be better prepared for a more uncertain future.

Embrace Difficulty

This is commonly referred to as having a “growth mindset.”

A growth mindset is accepting the idea that your abilities are not fixed, you can develop skills and learn new things no matter who you are.

This is not woo-woo psychology, your brain is neuroplastic (it can respond to training) and will rewire itself when you pay attention to what you’re learning.

Your brain never loses the capacity for neuroplasticity, it doesn’t matter your age, gender, or genetics.

Learn Continuously

Get used to the idea that in today’s world schooling never stops.

Stay up to date about the trends of your industry, this allows you to look for opportunities that others might not see.

Take courses and look for educational materials that can support your personal or professional development.

  • Websites like Udemy teach practically anything you can think of.
  • There is free material on the internet about any and every subject.
  • You can purchase ebooks or audiobooks very cheaply as another method of learning.
  • There’s also the option to listen to Podcasts on platforms like YouTube and Spotify.

Learning continuously is about staying curious and at the same time focusing on what matters to you, don’t learn for the sake of learning.

The video below provides the 10 of the most powerful mind tricks you can use to learn anything fast.

There Is No “I Can’t”

One of the best ways to develop flexibility, resilience, and everything else that allows you to be adaptable is to take away “I can’t do this” as an option.

When you stop telling yourself that you can’t do something or that you’re incapable, some amazing things start to happen:

  • You start to see small actions that you can take that make a massive difference over time.
  • You take a more strategic view.
  • You get excited about new possibilities.
  • You evaluate and analyze your options better.

This doesn’t mean that you should still do something after you’ve evaluated an action and decided you don’t want to do it. It’s about eliminating the false belief that you can’t learn or can’t take a positive step forward because you’re not good enough.

Adaptability Benefits

There’s a host of suite benefits you get by making a conscious effort to become more adaptable:

  • Your problem-solving skills will skyrocket: When you look for alternate solutions or have a willingness to try and learn new things, you’ll automatically find yourself easily handling problems and situations that you couldn’t imagine before.
  • Better leadership: Being willing to tackle problems head-on is what separates leaders from politicians.
  • You become more creative and innovative: If you’re willing to look for solutions where others may give up, you force yourself to think outside of the box and see things from different angles.
  • It helps your career and business: In the world of work, adaptability is greatly valued. When you enhance your ability to work in different environments, think of creative solutions, and are willing to tackle difficult challenges you set yourself apart.

This also applies to anyone starting their own business.

  • It increases self-confidence: When you’re running a business solo, you need to feel like you can count on yourself. This happens organically as you find yourself solving problems and thriving amidst uncertainty.

Final Thoughts on Adaptability

With the relentless pace of change and growth present in today’s world, it’s more essential than ever to keep your eyes open.

If you’re trying to build a more fulfilling life or start a solopreneur operation, you’re going to need to be able to respond to changes in the economic, political, and technological landscape.

In summary, to become more adaptable:

  • Think about what is draining your time and energy without giving you much in return.
  • Replace this with things that get you closer to your goals.
  • Embrace difficulty and develop a growth mindset.
  • Remove “I can’t do it” as an option to defeat limiting self-beliefs.
  • Enjoy the benefits!

And if you're looking for more articles on adaptability, be sure to check out these blog posts:

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