How to Stay Flexible

People who know me often hear me say, “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape!”   I say it only half in jest because it’s really true.

If you look at a synonym, adaptability, the species that can adapt to environmental shifts most rapidly are the ones who survive. Those who are adaptable are able to change something, possibly itself, to fit changing circumstances.  They will live to see another day, as will their progeny.

Flexibility, though similar, is a little broader in scope than adaptability.   To be flexible means to be limber – you have an ability to stretch. Then when change hits, the capacity to adapt is already in place, and you don’t get bent out of shape.

It also refers to what we coaches call “dancing in the moment.” In this case, the coach remains open and non-judgmental so that they can be with whatever the client brings to the coaching interaction.   And that takes training.

If flexibility is not your go-to response, you can learn it too.  Here are some suggestions for how to stay flexible:

  1.  Recognize and accept that inside everyone’s head is their own world. Your perspective is only the window you use to view the world. Everyone else has a window as well. No one is going to line up to look through your window even though it seems that they agree with your perspective. Actually, they’re looking out their own window.
  2. Pay attention to your mindset. Research shows that mindset matters. Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist and author of “The Upside of Stress” reports that the way that you think about something can actually transform the effect that it has on you. As an example, she explains the effect of your mindset on aging: “People who have a more positive attitude toward aging live on average eight years longer than people who have a more negative attitude towards aging. … They actually do better as they get older.”
  3. Stretch your body. One of the myths around change is that attitude is the driver, in other words, attitude is what makes it happen. Well it isn’t.  Action is the driver.  Attitudes follow behavior, they do not predict it. So if you stretch your body, say join a yoga class, your body will teach you to have a flexible attitude. Let it.
  4. Volunteer.   Go find a cause or a need that is bigger than you, and do something to help. When you see the infinite variety that surrounds us and are able to integrate it into your perspective, you will be dancing in the moment.

The ability to be flexible keeps you open to new information and allows you a breadth of responses.   I’d love to hear from you about how being flexible helped (or hindered) your progress.  Please comment below!

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