Disruption is the new normal. But if you’re not nimble enough to change course on a dime, your career may suffer. Experts agree that adaptability is essential for success at work. Companies want employees who can shift into different roles when needed and stay flexible in new situations.
But what can you do if you’re a titch intractable by nature? Try these three strategies to increase your comfort level with change. With a little effort, you might become as mentally flexible as Mrs. Incredible.
Learn to control your fight or flight response.
“The left hand side of our brain sees change as threatening, so it triggers a fight, flight, or fright response because it involves uncertainty,” explains executive coach Glenn A. Williams, whose background in business and biology informs his views on adaptability.
Researchers say having a growth-mindset strategy will change your ingrained negative response patterns. People automatically resist change, Williams adds, because by default they associate it with loss, rather than gain. Try to find that proverbial silver lining and recast what you’re experiencing as a positive. That way, you’ll crush those unproductive thought patterns and learn to roll with the punches.
Put yourself in new, “scary” environments.
Most people love routine. We find great comfort in our familiar environments and people. In fact, significant change can make us feel vulnerable and stressed out. Grow your tolerance for the unknown by putting yourself into new situations sometimes. Getting out of our comfort zone, even (or especially) if it make us feel awkward, scared, or foolish, is the key to personal growth.
You don’t have to jump out of a plane or swim with sharks to enjoy the benefits that come from having new experiences. Even something slightly out of your normal routine is enough to shake things up. It’s all about learning to feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations. And losing some of the fears that stunt your growth.
Focus on the end, not the means.
Many of us get super hung up on achieving things in a certain way. Maybe it’s because it has always worked in the past. Or, it could be because doing it in a different way is too hard/unproven/intimidating.
Don’t stay so attached to your plan A. Be open to considering the merits of Plans B, C and Z. When you find yourself grumbling about a new process because it’s too “out there,” remember to put your focus and energy where it belongs—on the finished product. Not the path to it.
So here’s your homework: Take on a new challenge, even if it’s difficult. Keep going, even if you fail. Maintain an open and curious mind. Because adaptability as a key life skill is here to stay.