Secrets of the Adaptable Mind
Change is a constant. The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus first observed it. Many thinkers, authors, and creators have also embraced the idea. An adaptable mind is the key to surviving and thriving in this constant state of change.
The human brain is a fantastic organ capable of taking action for survival in different circumstances. However, it can also be responsible for stubbornness and fear in the face of positive or negative change. An individual who is adaptable shows much more flexibility when faced with big or small changes in life.
To truly understand the benefits of having an adaptable mindset (and how to acquire it), we first must discuss adaptability and what it entails.
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What Is Adaptability?
Adaptability is the ability to mold your actions and reactions according to the environment around you. It involves cognitive and behavioral adjustments in response to stimuli, particularly uncertain or unfamiliar circumstances.
When we say someone is ‘adaptable,’ we refer to their flexibility in thinking, acting, or both. In simpler words, they are better able to think and act according to the situation they’re presented with.
Adaptability may be helpful in something as simple as an unexpected traffic jam to more complex and severe events, such as a natural catastrophe or illness.
An adaptable individual tries to adjust to the environment around them instead of changing it. In many cases, that may be because the environment is beyond their control.
On the other hand, the opposite of adaptability is rigidity in thinking and behavior– someone who doesn’t want to or fails to change their way of thinking or doing things.
Adaptability in and of itself is a skill made up of many other skills and aspects of cognition and behavior.
Benefits of Adaptability
Being adaptable can benefit you both professionally and personally. The ability to adjust to change allows you to think outside the box when circumstances aren’t necessarily in your favor.
A study from the University of New South Wales, Australia, explored the role of adaptability in online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. It noted that adaptability was a critical personal resource for students to succeed in online learning.
Charles Darwin, the highly revered naturalist and biologist, linked adaptability with survival. Those who adapt to change are more likely to survive personal, professional, and natural ordeals. Many species in nature survive through adaptability, often via natural mechanisms.
Another advantage of adaptability is being open to other people’s opinions and thoughts. That, in turn, fosters collaboration and problem-solving, which can help address and resolve issues one may not have been able to handle on their own.
Adaptability is often coupled with strong communication and leadership skills. Adaptable individuals strongly influence others as they look for solutions instead of stressing out or getting angry.
It can be argued that adaptability is even more important in modern times, where technology rapidly changes the world. The era of Artificial Intelligence is pushing for a revived need for adaptability, as people will need to move with the technology and leverage it to survive.
What Makes an Adaptable Mind?
Adaptability is primarily linked with the mind. So, an adaptable mind is the key to embracing adaptability in life. An adaptable mind will influence every facet of life, from performance at work to raising kids at home. It can learn new things, unlearn old things, and relearn things differently as a response to the changing environment around them.
Certain qualities, aspects, and skills come together to make a mind more adaptable.
An adaptable mind is a curious mind, always looking to find answers and learn new things. Curious people are naturally inclined to gain new knowledge, enabling them to adapt to new situations.
If life throws them a curveball, their curiosity helps them learn ways to cope with it. They ask questions like how and why, which leads them to find solutions. They have an appreciation for innovation.
Knowledge enables adaptability and flexibility. Adaptable individuals are interested in expanding their horizons, acquiring new skills, and even meeting new people to increase their knowledge. In other words, they’re lifelong learners.
For instance, they may enjoy traveling to learn about different cultures. They may explore a subject different from their field of work. They may want to learn a new language.
Critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making reflect an adaptive mind. When faced with challenges, adaptive individuals strive to find solutions. They often assess their surroundings to find a solution to the problem at hand. They also try to get to the root cause of the problem.
Although highly underrated, emotional intelligence is a crucial aspect of adaptability in humans. As emotional intelligence allows individuals to be more aware of their emotions, they can function better in uncertain or novice circumstances. They can understand their emotions about the situation and act accordingly.
More importantly, emotional intelligence enables them to adapt to social situations. If a circumstance calls for empathy, they can show empathy. If a situation calls for condemnation, they can show their disdain.
One of the best qualities a person can have and develop is resilience. While resilience can help resist change, it can be an effective adaptation tool. How exactly? Resilient individuals bounce back from setbacks quickly and don’t let hurdles stop them from achieving their goals. They circumvent and adapt to obstacles to reach their destination.
Openness to Change
Another notable characteristic of adaptable individuals is openness to change. Some people are more welcoming of change than others, which allows them to thrive in new, different circumstances. Such people can adapt better to changes like a new home, school, neighborhood, or workplace.
For the adaptable mind, change is nothing but an opportunity to grow. Many people fear or resist change, which is believed to be neurophysiologically developed during childhood. However, people with higher adaptability can overcome this fear and resistance.
Not everyone is lucky enough to be innately more self-aware. People learn and develop this through therapy, mindfulness, and other mechanisms.
Self-awareness is intrinsically linked with adaptability. Self-aware individuals are more in touch with their thought patterns, feelings, and attributes; they’re better decision-makers. They can tap into their strengths or work on their weaknesses to adapt to different circumstances.
Creative thinkers are problem solvers who can adapt better in uncertain situations. They can look at problems in a different light and find creative solutions. They often see issues as a puzzle to solve.
Although some research suggests that creativity is innate, some experts believe people can develop and harness their inner creativity even later in life.
Empathy is also essential to adaptability, especially in relationships and social situations. Putting oneself in another person’s shoes enables a more appropriate response. People who show empathy can also support their spouse better, as evidenced by studies.
Is It Possible to Develop an Adaptable Mind?
While some of the attributes of an adaptable mind may come naturally to some individuals, there are skills that you can work on to become more adaptable.
Learning and exploring new things can open your mind and make you more open to change. Similarly, you can work on your emotional intelligence and self-awareness through talk therapy, journaling, and mindful meditation.
Again, adaptability as a whole is a skill that can be acquired and improved through instruction and practice.
If you’re someone who particularly struggles with change, you’ll find it hard to adapt to novice situations and even something slightly off routine. Working with a therapist is a viable option; with therapy, you can learn the coping mechanisms that enable you to embrace change.
Taking the Road to Openness
You’ll discover that an adaptable mind can improve you and positively impact your work life and relationships. Adaptability is a highly desirable skill in the job market; recruiters prefer individuals who demonstrate that they can adapt well to changing environments. So, it’s a skill and personality attribute that will help you progress in your career and achieve higher life satisfaction.
But to be more adaptable, you must put in the work. Stress, depression, and other mental problems can also pose a hurdle to being adaptable. That’s why it’s essential to work on your mental wellness and consistently take on activities that enhance your mind and allow it to be more open to changes around you.
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