“The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings.” ~ Kakuzo Okakura
Sooooo over the years I’ve learned a thing or too about adapting to challenges, change, and well…life’s shit storms. To be more of a go-with-the-flow type than planning-it-all-out, because so far it’s always worked out for the better in the long run.
And since we’re in this global shit storm call covid19 that forcing almost everyone to adapt, I thought I’d share a few insights.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA) adaptability is “the capacity to make appropriate responses to changed or changing situations; the ability to modify or adjust one’s behaviour in meeting different circumstances or different people”.
Right, let’s dig in then…
Lessons In Adaptability
There’s nothing like getting your teeth knocked out whole (broken nose, ribs, jaw) by a tank at the ripe old age of 20 to test a little adaptability. A hard welcome to military life I suppose, and my first trauma. The situation called for adaptation. At work, it meant not participating in all of morning pt (like the obstacle course), but could I do some of it? Like run with the section and stay part of the group? Yes. So we did that. Could I help with stores, driving tasks, and ranges? Yes. So we did that. It wasn’t about what couldn’t be done, but focusing and offering what could be.
It took a little gumption to march over to our local drop zone with a friend in 2001 to jump out of a plane for the first time. By the end of the summer I had a skydiving license. Then became a basic parachutist, Canadian Forces SkyHawk, military freefall parachutist, and skydiving coach.
Skydiving requires constant adaptation. Whether due to the weather (wind direction and speed changes means adapting your jump plan, often on the fly…pun intended), or perhaps emergencies.
I remember climbing to altitude when, after a few alarms, the pilot gave the “get out now” command. Well first of all, we opened the door, checked for obstacles, and were out of that damn plane before the pilot enunciated the ‘n’ in now. Rather humourous in hindsight. Secondly…we had to adapt in air. Where were we, were there any obstacles, and what was the safety path back to the drop zone – if any? We adapted. And all landed safely.
The Real World
Transition to civilian life was, well, humbling as all get out. No job, no fancy resume, no place to live, and no plan. What are you going to do about it?
It was a good lesson in starting over and adapting to a different set of societal norms, values, and expectations. And it was alright, because we have the ability to adapt. So I started working at costco for minimum wage. Took night school classes. Applied to university. Started my own business. Failed plenty (like, a lot), but with each failure was a lesson to be embraced.
It wasn’t until starting university that the term ‘critical thinking’ came into my vocabulary. Isn’t that a key component of adapting? Being able to assess the situation, come up with various solutions, picking a course of action, and running with it?!?
It’s in nursing school that I hit financial rock bottom. Alright, there’s 20$ left for the month and you need to pay for hospital parking, work parking, and eat. Do something about it…
The solution? Sold any extra personal items that I owned, wrote blog posts for other websites, and swallow my pride and asked for financial assistance. Rather enjoy having less ‘stuff’ now by the way… It’s amazing what we don’t need.
Adopting an Adaptability Mindset
Practice the art of being solution focused. So say an sudden change is inflicted on you. Whether that’s a friend canceling plans, your car breaking down, or notice that you just failed a test. Before any negative thoughts invade your mind space come up with possible action plans a through z.
And I mean every possible solution, even the ones you don’t quite like. There’s likely more than you originally thought. Write them down if you need to. The review the list for the best possible one, and run with it. If it doesn’t work then pick avenue b,c,d…etc.
Develop that ‘can do’ attitude, because you really can.
But what if you really really wanted those plans with your friend to happen? Or your car break down cost you your monthly budget? Or if your dream career change was weighing on that test? Ok, I get it. It sucks. But also, this is life.
So what are the possible silver linings? Again, write them down if you need to or ask friends to help pitch in or chat with a professional. Embrace your inner optimistic and try letting go <insert disney frozen song here> of any “I’m not being negative, I’m being realistic” attitudes. Because the reality is how you approach each challenge/change will impact overall life satisfaction.
Failure is Ok:
Understand that failure is ok. Hell, I’d ever say it’s encouraged because there’s a shit ton of personal growth that happens with failure.
It forces the discovery of better coping mechanisms, personal success strategies, and/or puts you on a new path entirely that in all likely hood leads to doors you never knew would open.
Failure, and bouncing back from it, requires a little humility along with being adaptable. Why is failure such a scary aspect of life? Who’s judging us on that failure and why are we accepting it? Ouuuu queue that disney song yet again, cause it time to let that shit go. And is it really a failure if it prompted adaptation and growth?!?
“All failure is failure to adapt, all success is successful adaptation.” ~ Max McKeown
Adaptability is Our Superpower
Adaptability is a superpower. One that we’re not born with, but is nurtured over time through life challenges. It is the backbone to resilience. And arguably, life satisfaction.
Practice makes perfect, so if you’re faced with a change, be mindful. Try writing down possible solutions, silver linings, and recognize that by adapting you are overcoming the perceived failure/negativity.
Hopefully this one was helpful, especially for the wild west of uncertainty going on right now with our global response to Covid19. It is stressful for most and forcing so. much. change. I get that. It’s bananas.
There is also opportunity in the chaos and I’ve love to hear how you’re taking advantage of life right now. Maybe by slowing down? Overdue self-care? Or more family time? Volunteering? Getting into shape? Stepping up studies?
My own strategy lies in routine, health, connection, and creative work. So maybe I’ll get to 50 pushups after all this year, ha ha. If you’d like a loook, my tips to survive this mandated staycation are posted.