Updated: Nov 22, 2022
We don’t have to look very far to understand why we have such an adverse reaction to adaptability. Everyday we are inundated with messages offering solutions, comfort, and belonging through consumerism. We are told the discomfort of change can be lessened by the products we buy–or by avoiding change all together.
Capitalism is structured in such a way that our reliance on comfort has mutated into a need for numbing. The more we disconnect from our own discomfort, the more industries and corporations profit by feeding our need to numb. Change is painful and adapting is hard. When your culture is telling you there is a shortcut, it can be understandable why so many of us avoid the difficulty of adapting.
The struggle with adaptability is not only limited to the dysfunctions of capitalism. Our government is also a place where adaptability is an endangered species. As a result, ineffective leaders consistently stay in office, progress has become cost-prohibitive, and those with power make sure the system remains self-serving. Individuals feel ineffective and this results in apathy and stagnation.
We are evolutionarily wired for connection. The predominant message our culture feeds us is about making life easier through checking out, escaping, and dimming our lights. So it's no wonder that our connections to each other become more about what we consume rather than who we are. When we connect through consumption, the world suffers. We don’t share ideas, overcome challenges, or enact change. In short, when we aren't experiencing adaptability we are stagnating and this takes a toll on our relationships with ourselves, each other, and our communities.
When our comfort levels make us averse to adaptability, we can disconnect from our insight and our awareness suffers. One of the reasons why adaptability is so hard is because change literally changes the chemistry of our brains, which can send us straight into fight, flight, or freeze modes. But if we’re able to stay present in these responses and identify when (and more importantly WHY) they come up, we will notice that being present gives us a window of space–an opportunity to get clarity and reset. Our predisposition to comfort is costing us our opportunity for growth and development.
The choice to do something differently will always be a challenge to our brains, but the more we practice adaptability, the more we are able to adapt to these sensations and we experience greater mental agility. The more we train ourselves to practice adaptability, the more we gain confidence, empowerment, resilience, and the benefits are more than emotional. The more we integrate discomfort to expand our comfort zone while practicing adaptability, the sooner we will see and feel the chemical benefits, as well. Each time we choose to break a pattern or deviate from a well-worn behavior, we actually increase our brain’s plasticity. We can even feel this in beneficial reward chemicals (like dopamine) that radiate throughout our nervous system. They can cause us to feel elated and may even trigger an emotional release.
I now view adaptability as an act of self-care. I have had times in my life where practicing adaptability in both small and large ways changed my mood, direction, environment, community, and trajectory. When my awareness is strong, I’ve noticed that it becomes easier to practice adaptability. This used to be a massive struggle for me and really kept me in some nasty patterns for much of my life. Changing this pattern takes time and practice. One of the ways I began doing this was to lean into curiosity and focus on staying flexible.
When I'm required to be adaptable, I now ask myself a variety of questions which can often include ones like this:
If I continue this current course, how will it be beneficial? How will it be destructive? What feels comfortable about this current path? What do I fear?
Looking at my answers, I am able to gain clarity on which choices will be most holistic and beneficial. I’ve also noticed that when I feel horrible about myself, practicing adaptability is much harder to do because I just want to be comfortable. It's one of the most powerful changes I now fully believe and try to live out in my life. I now understand that just by giving a shit about yourself, you make the world better for yourself and others.
When it feels impossible to practice adaptability, I start small. I switch up my music, podcast, and TV choices. I bring awareness to my emotions and notice how often they change. I question myself and the opinions I have. I discover something new about myself that I like. I diversify the thought leaders I'm following and I practice listening more than speaking.
Practicing adaptability can definitely be a challenge, but the choice to not practice it is costing us so much more. Leaning into adaptability is not our natural default and if we take our cue from nature, adaptability is always linked to survival. This also applies to our current atmosphere. We are drowning in our polarization, comfort, and conformity. Adaptability in our current climate holds space for opportunity and potential which will most likely come from directions outside of our comfort zones. The next time you are struggling with change, remind yourself that the comfort of stagnation still comes at a price.
Kate Katz is the owner and founder of All Hands In, a soft skills development company. All Hands In specializes in soft skills development using play and puppetry. If you'd like to learn more about the work she does, please visit: www.allhandsinworkshops.com or email her at email@example.com.