"Adapt or die"

16.11.2020

Adaptation is movement, it is change and, above all, flexibility. The art of adapting to change doesn't have to be traumatic; what's more, the benefits we get from that process can be extraordinary.

"Adapt or die." Many of us have grown up with that mantra, with the idea that faced with the challenges of the environment, one has to react to force and that reaction, that movement, is almost always painful. Thus, and in case of not doing so, we are left behind, relegated, doomed almost to involution. However ... is this how this mechanism works? More so ... what really is adaptability?

Let's admit it, nothing is as decisive right now as adapting to the changes we are experiencing, to uncertainty, to variability ... We are almost forced to face these realities, while the lack of certainties makes us see these dimensions with concern. The fact that we feel that way is not accidental. The brain does not like changes, because any variation in the environment is perceived as a threat.

However, there is an indisputable fact: life is change. As Heraclitus once said, no one touches the same river twice, because it is not the same river and it is not the same person. Knowing how to adapt to that constant flow is key to health and well-being. This explains why in recent years the field of psychology has focused with special interest in this area: that of human adaptation.

Let's go deeper.

What is adaptability? Keys to understanding it

"Only those who are best adapted to change survive," said Charles Darwin. Somehow, we have long internalized this classic idea. Although in reality, to this day, the problem of surviving or not is hardly important. There are many people who "stay alive" despite being inflexible, there are many who continue to breathe despite adopting a rigid and inflexible psychological perspective.

Today, no one dies from not adapting to the demands that surround them, but we do suffer and have a greater risk of suffering from depressive and anxiety disorders. Because maladjustment brings suffering, because those who refuse to change become frustrated and angry because reality does not respond to their wishes.

Also, this dimension does not apply only to the human being. Companies and the social fabric know and understand that to progress it is necessary to invest in three dimensions: learning capacity ( learnability ), adaptability ( liquidity ) and mobility ( mobility ). Adapting is the only mechanism that allows us to progress in every way.

What is adaptability?

Align emotions, thoughts and behaviors

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines this concept very simply: it is the ability to give appropriate responses to changing situations. This requires, above all else, being able to vary our behaviors, thoughts and emotions.

It is important first of all to consider one aspect. If we ask someone what adaptability is, they can answer us that it is the ability to vary our behavior to survive. This definition is not complete. We know that adapting requires making a change, but that variation is not just about behavior, it requires creating new approaches to thinking and reactivating certain emotions.

Because without the right frame of mind new ideas will not germinate and without innovative, confident and courageous thoughts, the right behaviors will not appear.

Adaptation does not mean giving up everything you are or love

We can often tell ourselves that nothing can be better than a clean slate. There are those who even assume that adapting or dying necessarily means leaving aside everything we are, to shape a new version. Now, it is necessary to deactivate many of those popular ideas that, in the long run, have little logic and psychological.

You don't have to start from scratch, you have to start from your own experience . We cannot remove one skin to get into another, it would go against our essences, learnings, values ​​and identities. If we ask ourselves what adaptation is, one of the answers is to detect those skills that have worked for us so far in life, put aside those that do not work and learn new ones.

Something like this requires a proper exercise of introspection. Perhaps one of your strengths is self-confidence. This should keep it. However, you may lack transcendence, think more creatively, know how to sense opportunities in the midst of the storm. All of these are new approaches that are worth developing but keeping the essences.

Adaptive capacity and tolerance for uncertainty

Andrew J. Martin, professor of educational psychology at the University of Sydney in Australia, has been studying the field of human adaptation for many years. In one of his investigations, he points out that if we educate our students in tolerance to uncertainty and adaptability to changes, we would not see how their academic results would improve.

Being able to accept the uncertain, to process it without anxiety, without fear or resistance, not only facilitates a better adaptation. It is the key to seeing opportunities in the midst of difficulty .

Mental flexibility does not hurt, it enriches

The ability to adapt does not hurt, because whoever adapts does not lose or give up. What it does is exercise that emotional, cognitive and emotional flexibility that adjusts to the new reality with better resources, balance and intuition. What hurts is the inflexibility, the rigid mind that opposes the changes and fights with them to no avail.

To conclude, now more than ever, let's refine these competencies that we all carry within us. It is time to develop them much more and make them our allies.

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