Have you ever heard the saying “the only constant in life is change”? Our ability to react effectively and intelligently when business and environmental factors change unexpectedly, is what becoming strategically adaptable is all about. Since the only constant in life is change, it makes sense then for us to level up our adaptability skills.
When I think of becoming adaptable, I think about 3 things in particular;
Ego, Growth Mindset, and Negative Visualization.
In order to develop our adaptability skill set, we must be able to learn from our experiences. This is a major problem if we have an unhealthy and unwarranted ego. It becomes an even bigger problem if we are closed minded which I’ve often found to be directly correlated with an inflated ego.
Let’s take a closer look at how we can let go of our Ego, develop more open-mindedness and a Growth Mindset, and leverage Negative Visualization.
“Ego is the enemy” - Ryan Holiday
One of the early findings that Holiday had was the realization that ego can lead to a lack of ambition, thus hindering both professional and personal growth, particularly when we focus on achievement over fulfillment. Achievement can be dangerous when we tie it to our self-worth. This doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate and be proud of our wins. It means not to attach our worth to those achievements. Instead, focus our self-worth on who it is that we’re becoming and ensure that we’re aligned with our core values.
I’ve found core values can change over time and are often best utilized when they are narrowed down to 3 or 4.
What are your core values and how consistent are you with living their truth?
They could be;
Integrity, Honest, Humble, Driven to Grow, Kind, Conscientious, Virtuous, Faithful, Committed, Authentic, Determined, Compassionate, Self-Respect, Inspiration, Accountable, Gratitude, Empathy
Notice how egotistic isn’t on this list or any other virtuous core values list?
Ego blocks our ability to be adaptable because it assumes we have all the answers, that change is bad, and it prevents us from preparing for inevitable change.
When I had a big ego in my 20’s, I was aware of it but wasn’t open or ready to change it for a few reasons…
- I was comparing myself against “slow racers” which gave me a false sense of confidence
- I was having “success” and getting promoted quickly
- I was outworking anyone else in the dealership
I felt irreplaceable
I had all the answers
- I had an unhealthy belief of my own importance
There wasn’t any one moment that I can recall which made me realize I was going down the wrong path. However, when I read my first book at age 26, that’s when my mind started to open-up. As I started to become obsessed with personal development, I became more humble and came to the realization that the more knowledge I gained, the more I realized how little I knew.
The way ego became my enemy was through books, online courses, studying and researching the greatest people in history, emotional intelligence, NLP, neuroscience, psychology, practicing gratitude, stoicism, discovering my purpose, surrounding myself with people who I admire and are where I’m striving to be.
I went to work on myself by focusing the majority of my efforts on who it was that I was becoming and ensuring my actions were aligned with that person. The only person I compare myself to now is who I was yesterday.
The by-product of becoming obsessed with everlasting development, which is how I now define success, is that I’m prepared for anything that comes my way. I’m continuously developing the ability to adapt to difficult situations, major pivots, or anything that comes with the responsibility of being a leader both professionally and personally.
There is no room for ego now.
“In a growth mindset, challenges are exciting rather than threatening. So rather than thinking, oh, I’m going to reveal my weaknesses, you say, wow, here’s a chance to grow.” - Carol Dweck
Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck popularized the term “growth mindset” in her book ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success’. Dweck explains that while a “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t improve in any meaningful way, a growth mindset thrives on challenge and sees failure “not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.”
We can understand now why having an inflated ego can block any additional growth and how it suppresses our unrealized ability. Our ego sees challenges as threatening because we don’t want to look bad or like we failed. By removing our ego, we begin the journey of discovering what our true potential is through taking on challenges that are outside our comfort zone, leveraging failure, and being open to receiving feedback that will nurture our growth.
Here are 10 ways to develop a growth mindset;
- Accept and embrace our imperfections
Improve our language by trading failure with learning
- Focus more on the process than the result
Get comfortable being uncomfortable
- Expect obstacles and mentally prepare for them
View criticism as feedback
- Ingrain the word “yet” into your vocabulary - “I haven’t reached my goal yet”
- Learn through other people’s mistakes as well as your own
- Take time to reflect and celebrate the growth you’re gaining each day, week, month, year, etc.
- Think effort before talent
Typically, people who assume that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are fixed, are the same group of people who have big egos and believe in talent. In reality, innate talent is overrated and frankly a myth. It’s more of an excuse than anything else. It gives a false belief that certain people are better than you or I, that they are special and gifted.
Coincidentally, whether you are overconfident or lack confidence, you often tell yourself the same story. That talent exists. This simply isn’t the truth. Consider what Anders Ericsson states in regards to Mozart in his incredible book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise… “Perfect pitch is not the gift, but, rather, the ability to develop the perfect pitch is the gift - and, as nearly as we can tell, pretty much everyone is born with that gift.”
The core message that Anders is sending throughout the entire book is that we are extremely adaptable and our capabilities are near endless should we choose to explore them.
“Negative visualization, in other words, teaches us to embrace whatever life we happen to be living and to extract every bit of delight we can from it. But it simultaneously teaches us to prepare ourselves for changes that will deprive us of the things that delight us. It teaches us, in other words, to enjoy what we have without clinging to it.” - William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life
I’m going to encourage you to proceed with caution when applying negative visualization. The purpose of its use here is to help you prepare for unexpected events and become adaptable to them.
When I first started studying stoicism, I was instantly fascinated and hooked. The discovery came through reading Ryan Holiday’s books and watching his interviews on YouTube. This led to Meditations from Marcus Aurelius, The Manual by Epictetus, The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday, and many others. There was one concept however that was initially difficult to understand and implement; negative visualization.
What I’ve learned though is that it is an incredible preparation tool for worst case scenarios.
Let’s look at a couple examples;
1. What would it be like to deal with your most difficult client every single day? Now all of a sudden, the less but still challenging client doesn’t seem as difficult to deal with.
2. What would happen if 75% of your staff called in sick today? What kind of additional stress would that add to your day? Now, only having 2 or 3 people calling in sick isn’t such a big deal.
3. What if you had a serious injury and couldn’t make it to work for weeks on end? Now, the headache or stiffness you’re dealing with is minor in comparison.
The idea with negative visualization in my opinion, is to help us mentally prepare for worst case scenarios so that we can adapt should they arise while simultaneously teaching us to appreciate all that we have with the understanding that someone out there always has it worse than us. It’s not what happens to us that matters, it’s how we respond (adapt) that matters.
The ability to stay stoic in potentially hysteric situations stems from the level of mental preparation you invest in each morning. Becoming adaptable in any situation is an underrated skill to develop as a leader. If you allow your emotion to dictate how the situation will go, you are having a deep impact not only on yourself, but on everyone around you as well.
I believe it’s best if we prepare for the worst while expecting the best. One way we can do this is by combining the practice of negative visualization with mental rehearsal. If we can develop the skill of mentally rehearsing how we want the day to go while preparing for the reality that not every day will go how we expect, then that’s when we’ve become adaptable.
“Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.” - Zig Ziglar
You got this!