How can individuals learn to be more Adaptable?

Without exaggerating, there are literally hundreds of ways of becoming more self- aware, and hence more adaptable to embrace and think through opportunities and / or adversity.

 

As a Preferred Partner in South Africa for the Six Seconds EQ Worldwide Network (in 174 countries), we talk about ‘emotions driving people, and people driving performance’. As Leaders we need to act with purpose and forethought, and one of the enablers for this is ‘pausing’ to look ahead, before you jump in. Applying consequential thinking (ACT) is one of the eight competencies in the Six Seconds Model of Emotional Intelligence.

 

ACT takes into account that we can use our emotions and our rational thinking to help us pause, evaluate our choices, and the in-turn ensure that we are more ‘adaptable’ for that set of circumstances. Perhaps you need to ask yourself a few questions: ‘What else do I need to take into account?’ ; ‘What / who will give me perspective?’ ; ‘What are the implications for myself / others, in both the short- term and the long-term?’

 

All 8 EQ competencies are all learnable competencies. ACT, is one that I have focused on developing. I run a busy life (like most people) and a business that delivers workshops and programmes for Clients in different time zones. Everything I do aligns with my personal purpose statement – ‘To inspire actionable resilience, for people to live their best, and most optimal life’. I often need to ‘make choices’ and weigh up the Pros and Cons. To ensure that I have time to ask myself the right provocative questions - I need to push the ‘pause button’. This ensures that I can be intentional and responsive, as opposed to reactive and impulsive.

 

Here are three practical ways to ‘push your own pause button’, so that you can strengthen your AQ. Your ‘Adaptability Quotient’..

 

When I am emotionally triggered, and worrying that my rational thinking will go out the window, I know that I need to ‘do something’. As a result, I stand-up and get away from my desk. I go and bounce (for about two minutes) vigorously on my mini-trampoline, which is five meters from my desk, on my veranda. If I am in a meeting room / board room, I will fabricate a ‘bathroom break’. When in the bathroom, I do fifty deep squats (in the cubicle if others are around). I try and focus on the counting, so that I give my ‘brain-a-breather’ and keep counting under my breath until I get to fifty! ‘Motion shifts Emotion’. This buys me time to ACT, and to think through my choices. I want to think through how I potentially want to respond, when I get back to the board room.

 

If I am working on a project, or trying to re-prioritise my day – I’ll use Dr Caroline Leaf’s breathing technique which is beautifully simple and incredibly practical.
I will get up from my desk and walk to the kitchen to get something to drink, or a healthy snack. As I walk, I breathe-in (through my nose) to the count of three and mentally ask myself – “What do I feel?” and “What do I think?”.

 

I then breathe-out (through my mouth) to the count of seven and ask myself (mentally) – “What do I choose?”. I’ll do this breathing / mental-clearing technique about three times.

 

Answers and ‘pearls of wisdom’ don’t immediately spring to mind. However, this is what I call the ‘windscreen wiper’ for my brain. I return to my desk and look at the project / task at hand, and it feels like the burst of oxygen to my brain has given me ‘fresh eyes’ (like a clean windscreen) and a new perspective for ‘consequential thinking’. In other words a long-range view of potential ‘consequences’. This greatly enhances ‘choice’ and adaptability.

 

None of these are rocket science.None of them cost a cent. So remind yourself that there is a vast difference between ‘knowing’ and ‘doing’. Challenge yourself to do one of them TODAY, and boost your ‘adaptability quotient’.

 

Dr Caroline Leaf is a neuro-scientist specialising in cognitive and metacognitive neuropsychology. Her latest book (released on 2 March 2021) is a must-read: “Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess: 5 Simple, Scientifically Proven Steps to Reduce Anxiety, Stress & Toxic Thinking”