Charles Darwin wrote in his Origin of Species that it’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. The species that survives is the one that is most adaptable to the changing environment. (–Professor Leon Megginson, “Lessons from Europe for American Business.”)
The past 19 months have been difficult. We have had to learn to be adaptable, whether we wanted to or not. Moving forward, we must continue to be adaptable, or we could well find ourselves on the outside of life looking in.
To stay relevant, and to thrive, we need to adapt.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”IOHJZ” via=”yes” ]To stay relevant, and to thrive, we need to adapt.[/ctt]
In 2011, Harvard Business Review published an article called Adaptability: The New Competitive Advantage, by Martin Reeves and Mike Deimler. The opening line is, “We live in an era of risk and instability.”
If that was the case 10 years ago, it’s even more true during this pandemic. Adaptability is one of the most important skills to have today. Without it, you could find yourself stuck in a rut that could eventually cost you your job and your relationships, and have an effect on your mental health.
We need to grow and change. We need to let go of what we once believed to be “right” and adapt to the “current right.”
[ctt template=”3″ link=”HNUxo” via=”yes” ]We need to let go of what we once believed to be “right” and adapt to the new “current right.”[/ctt]
Being forced to adapt and being willing to adapt are quite different. You’ve had no choice over the past year. Moving forward, you will have a choice. Do you want to keep growing and changing, or will go back to your your comfort zone when the pandemic is over?
Jim Clemmer, a Kitchener-based leadership guru, says, “There are two types of people. Those who are changing, and those who are setting themselves up to be victims of change.” Which one will you be?
I am learning to be adaptable. I’m embracing the unknown and learning new skills. I am well aware that we are never going back to what we used to have. It disappoints me to know we are never going back, but I’m not afraid of the future. I know that the future will be bright for those who choose to adapt.
Here are some ways in which you can adjust your thinking in order to be more adaptable:
- Be willing to look at situations with fresh eyes.
When the pandemic started, everything changed. We will no longer be able to look at things the way we did before. In our post-pandemic world, we need to adopt a new perspective and that will include a greater emphasis on technology. Yes, it can be overwhelming sometimes, but remote working and learning are here to stay, so keep your eyes open and be willing to adapt.
- Try to find the humour and the positive.
Remember Seinfeld? Every episode started with him doing a bit from his stand-up routine: “Have you ever noticed…” and then it would tie to the episode and be funny. That’s what I try to do. I look for the funny, the unusual, or the ironic in each situation. It gives me an optimistic outlook on the situation, allowing me to see things with fresh eyes. We’ve had so much negativity and doom and gloom over the past year; let’s try to see things in a positive light with a fresh outlook.
Instead of complaining that we have to wear masks and shields, instead focus on how else you can see that. I joke that I have saved a fortune on lipstick and now I have a better appreciation for people with a twinkle in their eye.
Fresh eyes means looking for the good in a situation instead of looking at what is wrong. Is each of these examples positive? No, but my fresh eyes allow me to see the positive instead of dwelling on the negative.
- Be willing to be a bit uncomfortable.
Adaptability and learning go hand in hand. We have to step away from, “but that’s not how we’ve done it before” and be willing to step outside of our comfort zone. Identify some things that you believe are worth doing but have been afraid to do them in case you fail.
When we broaden our comfort zone, we are learning. Once you are outside of your comfort zone, it is natural to feel like you might fail. You’ve never tried it before. Be willing to put your hand up and say, “Pick me!” to volunteer assignments. Be willing to take on tasks you’ve never done before. This is part of learning, and learning and adaptability are connected. If you aren’t willing to be at least a bit uncomfortable, it means you aren’t willing to adapt.
- Hang out with adaptable people.
Jim Rohn, American author and motivational speaker, famously said, “You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with.” Who do you spend the most time with? Are they adaptable, or are they afraid of the future? Do they push their comfort zone and you along with it? Or are they spending all day complaining and waiting for things to be “the way they used to be?”
If you want to be a better manager, hang out with excellent managers. If you want to be a better golfer, play golf with people who are better than you. And if you want to be more adaptable, hang out with naturally adaptable people who don’t focus on what was but are more focused on what will be.
- Focus on the benefits.
In changing times, there are always benefits; we just need to find them. The benefits of our past 19 months of COVID-19 are substantial if you focus on them. You can choose to say that you spent too much time at home, you were worried about your health and the health of your loved ones, or you can say that it was a great time just to slow down. Perhaps you managed to spend more time with your kids in a way you may not have before if you were jockeying them from hockey to dance to soccer. You had time to get caught up on your sleep because you didn’t have anywhere to go. You saved money by not eating in restaurants. You got to know your spouse again. You cleaned your closets, your garage, your basement. You might even have more money in the bank and have paid off some debt.
If you watch the news, you’ll see a lot of negative things. But if you focus on the positive, you’ll see that adaptability can be filled with potential benefits.
The workplace has irrevocably changed and will continue to change. This isn’t a revelation. The only new thing is the speed at which this change happened—it was instantaneous.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”zb1wT” via=”yes” ]The workplace has irrevocably changed and will continue to change.[/ctt]
It is time to stop wishing for what was and start creating what will be.
By being adaptable to the changing times and learning new skills, we become better as employees, coworkers, friends, and adults. We will be better leaders, listeners, friends, and partners. We will reduce our stress, our attitudes, and our balance.
I see no downside to being adaptable. Do you?
This article originally appeared in the magazine for Canadian Society of Nutrition Managers CSNM.