To Increase Your Adaptability Make It Personal

Written by on June 4, 2017 in Adaptability



Adaptability may not be a word we use very often, but it is a skill that has the potential to influence your happiness, health, stress level and overall well-being.

Chances are you’re already pretty adaptable when it comes to making small adjustments in your day-to-day life … the restaurant is out of the item you order, so you pick something else on the menu; the local bookstore doesn’t have the novel you want in stock so they special order it for you, there’s a street crew working on the road you normally use for work commutes, so you take a detour, etc.

At the other end of the spectrum are the BIG things that have the ability to throw us for a loop, such as the loss of a job, a serious health scare or injury, end of an important relationship or the loss of a loved one.

But there’s a huge gap between these two extremes that includes many more situations that require us to adapt to new, and occasionally surprising circumstances.

For example …

  • Getting married (or divorced).
  • Having (or adopting) children.
  • Changing jobs.
  • Changing your nutritional habits.
  • Moving across the country.
  • Adjusting to a new boss at work.
  • Creating (or breaking) a habit.

Depending on where you are in your life some of these events may present few if any challenges for you, but that’s the point.

I have never been a fan of quick fixes in personal development and adaptability is a good example, because this is not a skill that can be effectively cultivated using one-size-fits-all strategies.

You are a unique individual so how you respond to even the most longed for change will depend on a combination of factors, including your beliefs and attitudes, past experiences, basic needs for survival, and desire for the best possible outcome … all of which result in expectations.

For better or worse, these preconceived expectations affect our choices and lead us to respond to change in one of the following three ways.

  • We welcome the change as a “New Beginning”, and adapt quickly.
  • We waver between clinging to the past and embracing the future, leaving us stalled in the “Neutral Zone”.
  • We steadfastly refuse to let go.

The more self-aware you are, the better able you will be to identify and work through potentially limiting or negative expectations and close the gap between the risks associated with change (either real or perceived) and your new reality so that you can successfully move forward.

Making Adaptability Personal

To understand the importance of personalizing your process let’s take a look at the all too common advice for improving your comfort with change by doing small things to shake up your routine like taking a new route to work, or trying a new food.

In theory, there is nothing wrong with this advice other than it falls squarely into the dreaded one-size-fits-all bucket. What we need to understand is that the effectiveness of this (or any) tactic will largely depend on the relevance of the action you take.

I once worked with a man who ate the same lunch (tuna fish sandwich, hard boiled egg, celery and carrot sticks and an apple) every single day. At home, the pattern continued with meatloaf on Monday, pot roast on Sunday, and fish on Friday … well, you get it.

With such a rigid routine it would make sense for this man to begin shaking things up by gradually introducing some variety to his schedule and choice of foods.

At the other end of the spectrum, you have someone like me, who thrives on new experiences. My favorite kind of travel is unplanned and spontaneous, and challenging myself is what I do for fun, so simply changing small daily behaviors such as trying a new food isn’t going to do much to affect the way I respond to new situations.

The bottom line is that if you genuinely want to improve your ability to adapt you need to begin by understanding where you are now (your starting point) and then determine the relevant actions to take that will push you a little farther than is comfortable to gradually increase your capacity.

Know your limitations, and then defy them. Click To Tweet

Determining your starting point isn’t that difficult if you’re willing to set aside some time for self-reflection.

  • How open minded are you?
  • How willing are you to try new ways of doing things?
  • How flexible are you? How do you cope with interruptions or changes in schedule?

You especially want to look for situations and circumstances involving a change that created discomfort for you.

That discomfort is you bumping up against the wall of your comfort zone.

I also recommend taking a stroll down memory lane to think about a few occasions in the past when you’ve been faced with having to adapt to new or changing situations. How did you respond? Are there things you would have done differently if you had more confidence? What part of the change process was the easiest for you, and what part was the most difficult?

This is an excellent exercise for a personal journal because it provides you with a safe space to explore your honest feelings and identify patterns.

Closing Thoughts

In our rapidly changing world adaptability has never been more important. It isn’t just about coping with change, it frees you to continue growing. It’s having the confidence and emotional mastery that enables you to remain calm and persist even in the face of difficulties.

Adaptability is managing changing priorities, thinking on your feet and bouncing forward through life’s challenges with a positive attitude, knowing that whatever happens, you will be okay.


Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living click here.


Thank you for sharing!

Tags: , , ,


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Pinterest Connect on Google Plus Connect on LinkedIn Connect on YouTube

45 Reader Comments

Trackback URL Comments RSS Feed

  1. Joyce Hansen

    Your post is making me think I’ve got a lot of adaptability genes. I can’t ever remember being rigid. I’ve always known that being adaptable to the circumstances is what got you through things. It’s interesting how everything around us is always changing and yet people can be so stubborn to continue to resist it and make their lives miserable. Another beautiful and though provoking post, Marquita.
    Joyce Hansen recently posted…Is Your Business Brain Headed for Burnout?My Profile

  2. Very insightful …. I remember growing up, being raised by a single mom, being tossed out of our apartment. We had no place to go. Our neighbors who lived across the street rented us a room in their house. One room shared with my mother, a dog and her 6 puppies … and the family of the house. Interesting times for sure. So I learned to adapt. As an adult.. being able to adapt to life, age, situations really is a choice, a mindset, a skill, and ability ….
    Lesly Federici recently posted…Catch Yourself When Your Mind is SpiralingMy Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Lesly. While I haven’t come across any formal studies that relate childhood experiences to adaptability I have to believe there is a strong connection. Anyone who grew up through challenging experiences learns the hard way how to rise above adversity … or not.

  3. Sue Kearney

    Preach, sister. As we’ve talked about before, this last move was really hard. I happy to report that adaptability is back, and that I’m finding myself doing a bunch of new things in a bunch of new ways with an entirely lighter heart.

    Maybe this move was exactly the shakeup I needed.
    Sue Kearney recently posted…Commitment — three stories and a pictureMy Profile

  4. Edward Thorpe

    Hi Marquita,

    Quite a post, my Friend! And, your commenters have added observations that boost your thesis about embracing the inevitability of change.

    I’m now facing a move that would be good for my family. Yet, I enjoy where I livet and not looking forward to the disruptions that relocation brings.

    Yet, on the spiritual side, I’ve never lived anywhere I’ve not liked. Plus, change often adds spice into our everyday life.

    On the other hand, although this may sound contrary to us motivational junkies, ‘good enough’ is sometimes just that – good enough. At least for the time being.;)
    Edward Thorpe recently posted…Stupid People Are Dangerous To Your HealthMy Profile

    • It’s true Edward that contentment is not the enemy of growth. Even when we know a change may bring about even better circumstances, that doesn’t mean we won’t experience some melancholy for what we’re leaving behind. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, and I can hardly wait to jump over and read your post!

  5. Suzie Cheel

    Marty this is amazing- this week I came across my strength Finder results and My number one strength is adaptability and it comes with pluses and minuses- those being when I find myself being too adaptable. You article raise some interesting points for me. I do love the variety of life in all ways that adaptability brings- thanks for getting me expanding beyond xxx
    Suzie Cheel recently posted…How To Empower Yourself Through HopeMy Profile

    • I am not at all surprised about what you learned Suzie, I see you as a highly adaptable person! You also brought up a point that I intend to explore in the near future, and that is where do we cross the line and become too accommodating. There is a world of difference between just letting change take you along with it like a rushing river, and making the effort to direct your course to achieve the best possible outcome. Thanks so much for contributing to the conversation Suzie, I always love your insightful comments. 🙂

  6. Janelle says:

    Adapting to changes is a tough thing for anyone. Life happens and sometimes you need to figure out how to deal with that. I know from my personal experience, I am attempting to make small changes to be healthier in my life. Trying to change habits are hard, but starting off small and having self-awareness can help you being adaptive to change.

  7. Great thought provoking blog. Adaptability is an important survival key. Without it we would become extinct. The important keys to adaptability I took away from your blog were: know your limitations, and be self-aware.

  8. If there’s one thing I’ve been regularly accused of/applauded for being, it’s adaptable. You and I seem to roll with the punches and the opportunities with the same sort of attitude: Go Forward. Back is behind us and no longer relevant except as a lesson.
    RoseMary Griffith recently posted…Musings on the Enchantment of the Italian RivieraMy Profile

    • So very true RoseMary! One of my literary crushes is a character created by author Robert Crais for the Elvis Cole Series. Joe Pike is the strong silent type, a former mercenary and he has a big red arrow pointing forward on each of his arms … the symbolic meaning is that we always go forward, never backward. If we hit a wall, we push through, go over or around, but never backward. I love it!

  9. William Rusho

    Evolution would say: a species adopts, or becomes extinct. This concept has been applied to politics, or business, but people forget about it when it comes to themselves.
    Thanks for a great post.
    William Rusho recently posted…Creation of the Empire State Plaza: Destruction of a NationhoodMy Profile

  10. Emily

    I think have the ability to adapt to changes is such an important skill to have because as they say, the only thing permanent is change, and in life we will go through so many ups and downs that by cultivating a positive mentality earlier on, it will help us in the long run.
    Emily recently posted…Beneath the Weeping WillowMy Profile

  11. Sonal Talwar

    Hi Marquita

    Adaptability is something we all face in one way or the other. I really liked your way of presenting it out. daily we adapt ourselves to one thing/situation or the other. At times maybe we are not realizing it.

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful post!
    Sonal Talwar recently posted…Let Nature Be Your Physician: 5 Healthiest Vegetarian FoodsMy Profile

  12. Rachel Lavern

    Hi Marquita,

    Throughout our life as we grow and learn, the neural circuits (“wiring”) in our brain change and adapt to novelty and variation in our environment, relationships and experiences. And, as I know that you are aware, that scientists refer to the ability of the human brain to alter itself in response to a person’s needs as they evolve over time, as neuroplasticity (“neuro” meaning “related to the brain” and “plasticity” meaning “adaptability”
    Rachel Lavern recently posted…Just AskMy Profile

    • Thanks for stopping by Rachel. If you are attempting to make a point that we’re hardwired to adapt naturally to change then I’ll have to say that would be absolutely peachy but it’s a highly simplistic way of looking at this process. Are we capable of quickly adapting to change, absolutely! Do we adapt quickly? It depends on the type of change and the individual (which is the point of the article).

      Some will naturally adapt quicker than others depending on their attitudes, mindset, environment and even past experiences play a role. There is often resistance to overcome, and even when we accept a new reality there will be the inevitable learning curve and depending on the nature of the change and our expectations the possibility of becoming stalled in frustration or even depression because adaptation is often a lengthy process.

      This is why I always emphasize the concept of increasing our capacity over time because the more adept we become at these transitions the quicker we are able to move forward. Again, thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, always appreciated!

  13. Mandy Allen

    I think I adapt well to changing situations, although prior to them happening I hate the thought of change!
    When it happens I just get on with it, I can always think of a solution to any problem I’m faced with, which involves being adaptable too.

    Enjoy the journey!
    Mandy Allen recently posted…Are You An Experienced Marketer Who Sometimes Behaves Like A Noob?My Profile

  14. Chery Schmidt

    Hello Marty! You said it adaptability may not be a word we use very often, yet as you have pointed out, we have to adapt to things each and everyday! I am a pretty easy going person and can adapt to just about anything LOL

    Great Share
    Chery :))
    Chery Schmidt recently posted…What Does It Take To Become Successful Online?My Profile

  15. Mark

    Thanks for sharing some amazing passages and thoughts M!

    BTW, I really love the quote in your image!And I like how you shared, even though ‘adaptability’ may not be a word we use a lot, it’s presence, and or lack there of, can and does, potentially affect so many other important aspects of our lives.

    M, while my daily routines, aren’t quite as set and predictable, as the gentlemen-s lunch routine, you described in your post!LOL!

    I could certainly stand to shake things up just a bit!LOL! I certainly won’t be injured too much, if I were to embrace, bumping up against my wall of discomfort, more often!LOL!

    Thanks for sharing another outstanding post!
    Mark recently posted…Do You Think Your Local Jeweler Networks Like This!Part FourMy Profile

    • To be fair, when you’re busy it is all too easy to fall into a daily routine because it really just makes this easier. But that’s where investing in periods of self-reflection can really help us. I have learned so much about myself through journaling which is why I harp on the value of this practice. Thanks for stopping by Mark!

  16. Erica says:

    I moved a lot as a kid. I lived in 8 different homes and went to 8 different schools. And I did get to a point where I just didn’t want change anymore. But I think having to let go and change so many times just got me used to it.

    Having said that, part of the reason I decided I didn’t want kids was that I didn’t want to adapt my life that much. Kids are, of course, a huge one. And that amount of adapting always seemed scary to me.
    Erica recently posted…Your Sunscreen Can Help Or Hurt: Depending On This…My Profile

    • Must have been difficult fo you at times with all of the moving, but obviously, it also made you stronger as well. You are so right about the connection between having children and adaptability and to be honest I wish more people did a little more soul searching before having children. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us Erica!

  17. Everything I have learned about adaptability, I have learned from Wing Chun. A kung fu style developed in southern China, it relies on being relaxed instead of tense. Instead of worrying about how you will be attacked or if you got hit, you train to “go with the flow.” How does this translate into mental adaptability? Quite easily: instead of getting stressed the moment a problem arises, I accept it and begin to find ways around it.

  18. Donna Merrill

    Bravo Marquita!

    Adaptability is something that we all have to face from small to big changes. Right now I’m going to physical therapy and talk about adapting….It is so difficult to adapt to an entire new way of posture and also specific exercises.

    But I did look back and thought of when I quit smoking. If I could do that, I can adapt to just about anything.

    I am currently using your advice and journaling my journey.

    Thanks Bunches,

    Donna Merrill recently posted…What Bloggers Can Do To Stand Out In A CrowdMy Profile

    • So glad you found value in the post Donna! I’d definitely have to agree with your point about smoking – I’ve never had the habit myself, but I’ve known many people who have and that is a tough one to overcome. Bravo!

  19. Great post, Marty.

    Being in a multi-general marriage has made it necessary for me to be adaptive at every level. Without a heavy emphasis on adaptability, our marriage would have been long over.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…exploring Shediac, New BrunswickMy Profile

  20. lenie

    For the most part, I enjoy change – often see it as the start of a new chapter in my life. Right now we are working towards downsizing – a tremendous job considering we have the leftovers of 7 boys plus me saying “Let’s save that, we may be poor someday”. But it’s made easier by looking forward to finding the perfect small place, whether it be apartment or townhouse.
    lenie recently posted…Horticultural Therapy – How It WorksMy Profile

    • Oh the downsizing project sounds major – 7 boys, really?! I am not a saver, stuff has never been important to me and I’m wondering if the fact that it was such an ordeal processing all of the things my mother and grandmother had accumulated over the years following their passing hasn’t influenced me in that regard. Thanks for sharing Lenie, and good luck with your project!

  21. When I moved to Florida, a big change in my life, I welcomed the change as the beginning of a new life and adapted quickly. I had given the change considerable thought so it wasn’t a rash decision. I knew that it was a move I had to make, so that made it easier. The key is adaptability.

    • You know Jeannette, I thought about your move as well as the story you shared in our book Women Breaking Barriers. You are definitely one adaptable woman! 🙂

  22. Phoenicia

    Thought provoking post.

    Change is inevitable but can bring an element of fear. Change is required for growth and progression. Change will come whether we stick our heads in the sand or face up to life.

    I agree that when we commit, we must reflect on our “why”. I have had to question myself in the past about going into a new venture or committing long term to a task/project.
    Phoenicia recently posted…Are you a people pleaser?My Profile

    • Glad you found it thought provoking Phoenicia. I know change can create fear for some, but that is really the point of increasing one’s capacity because it doesn’t have to be that way. Dealing with fear and change are just examples of two things we have the ability to master, but most will simply settle for good enough and chalk it up to “that’s just the way I am.” Thanks for stopping by and sharing, always appreciate your thoughtful comments.

%d bloggers like this: