“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”
—physicist Stephen Hawking
Just when you feel on top of things, life can throw you a curveball. You make good progress on your wellness moonshot, only to unexpectedly change jobs or have a new love come into your life or a loved one passes away. Or you discover that you need to deal with a serious health issue, as renowned physicist Stephen Hawking did. Sometimes the vicissitudes you encounter personally and professionally call for minor self-adjustments; at other times, your world feels turned upside down.
Fortunately, on the journey of wellness leadership, a saving grace is your unfailing capacity to adapt. This ability to adapt, enabling mind-blowing transformations such as a caterpillar to a moth, is inherent to every being, including you. Trust it. It has served you well thus far, from your first crawl as a toddler to the many roles you play as an adult. Your brain, body and psyche have been adapting every step of the way. Embracing your capacity to adapt can serve you as you navigate how to fully live and lead wellness.
What Does It Mean to Be Adaptable?
Being adaptable means accepting and effectively adjusting to shifting circumstances and demands. Experts in Traditional Chinese Medicine, India’s healthcare model Ayurveda, and Western medicine go so far as to say that being adaptable is the very definition of health, and it plays out physiologically, individually, interpersonally and societally. This enlightening view reminds us that when we learn to interact with our world with flexibility and harmony, we inherently grow wellbeing.
Adaptability Allows Us to Thrive
Psychologist Guy Winch says, “Our ability to have life satisfaction, to be happy [and] to have good relationships really depends on our ability to adapt.” Mentally and emotionally, being adaptable helps you buffer stress, deal with life’s traumas and challenges with greater resilience, and directs your inner resources toward a healthy, fulfilling life. Physically, being adaptable is as vital to the movements you make every day as it is to your ability to respond to surprise.
In the workplace, adaptability is key to career success. Adaptable people are better equipped to handle change, juggle multiple demands, respond to new situations creatively, and work with a variety of people and approaches to achieve results. In addition, entire organizations and communities must be adaptable to remain innovative, relevant and resilient.
So, the question is:
How does your ability to adapt help you as a wellness leader?
Put Adaptability Into Practice
When you are more adaptable, you naturally influence others to be adaptable, too. Bring adaptability to the forefront of your wellness leadership by experimenting with these seven strategies.
1. Trust how you are already adaptable and resilient.
Make a list of three past challenges you successfully navigated and how. You will discover that you succeeded in part due to your ability to recover from setbacks and adapt to change. It’s important to honor your ability to adapt—and mentor adaptability in others by sharing your wisdom.
2. Set yourself up to flex.
If you are rigid and stressed in your inner world, that’s likely how you’ll be perceived by your outer world. Commit to daily habits that help you function from a foundation of expansiveness and wellbeing. For instance, eating well, moving your body, getting sufficient sleep, adopting a growth mindset, and seeking moments of gratitude are habits that increase your adaptability.
3. Meet reactivity with breath.
Your meeting with a partner is spiraling downward. Your stomach, jaw and thinking have tensed—you are bracing, mind and body, to defend your views. How can you nudge your stress toward greater openness and adapt to the situation? Take a conscious breath. It is true for us all: As our reactivity rises, our adaptability erodes. Yet, we have the power to shift our state of being. Enhance conversations at work and home by sharing these breathing practices with others.
4. Ask, “What else could be true?”
Update your perspectives about a challenge by seeking opinions that differ from your own. Listen to podcasts or read news reports that shake up your views and talk to people who may disagree with you. What new questions or insights do you now have about the issue that you otherwise would have missed? Build adaptable thinking as a muscle in your family or team by inviting them to do this activity, too.
5. Turn letdown into learning.
On a daily basis, things occur that you don’t expect. Maybe someone fails to keep a commitment—or you do. Instead of resisting or judging what happened, explore what there is to learn. This isn’t about merely reframing the situation with a positive spin; it is about relating to it from a foundation of wholeness, learning and wellbeing.
6. Take another route to and from work, church or school.
If you usually drive, take the bus, carpool, ride your bike, or walk. Explore a path you’ve never taken before. What new ideas or energy are stimulated by your new surroundings? Involve others to make this a mind-expanding and bonding experience.
7. Love your wellness moonshot—yet let go of the “how.”
Keep an eye on your wellness vision and goals, but don’t get too attached to how to achieve them. Willpower is one strategy; allowing things to simply unfold is equally potent. What opportunities appear effortlessly when you’re willing to be adaptable?
The Journey of Living Is the Journey of Adapting
This month, we encourage you to celebrate your commitment to creating wellbeing in every aspect of your own life, as well as in your family, workplace, school or community. Post your story (and even a photo) about how you are making adaptability part of your personal or shared wellness journey with #wellnessmoonshot. We’ll spread your inspiration to the growing network of wellness leaders worldwide.
Think of each month’s Wellness Moonshot as a guide or “lesson plan” to empower wellness. Plus, invite others to join in The Wellness Moonshot! Our next step in this wellness leadership journey highlights how cultivating energy can help you lead wellness at work, at home, and in your community.
- Wellbeing Leadership Assessment System, Be Well Lead Well Pulse®
- How to breathe for wellbeing, April’s Wellness Moonshot strategies
- GWI’s Mental Wellness Initiative
- The Wellness Evidence database
- Move to Be Well: The Global Economy of Physical Activity, GWI Research Report
- Take the “Are You a Wellness Leader?” Quiz to see where you can grow