Few things in life are constant, except perhaps, paradoxically, the need for change. And it is the ability to adapt, to modify what you do or think on the fly and over time, that arguably defines which leaders win the game and which ones get benched. This makes it critical to know the signs that you are adaptable enough.

1. You're able to toss old data in favor of new information.

People who lack adaptability learn specific sets of knowledge and often become experts in applying that knowledge well. But when they are presented with something that challenges or dramatically builds on what they have learned, they reject it. If you can let go of what you've accepted before and rewrite your actions and beliefs according to new knowledge, this is a huge clue that you're not stuck.

2. You don't finish everything you start.

The "quitters never win, winners never quit" mentality is incredibly strong in business. But it's rare to make a decision having 100 percent of the information you actually need--the best you usually can do is to use whatever data you've acquired until the moment where making a call isn't optional anymore. Adaptable people know this and recognize that it's going to lead to some failure. They do their absolute best but aren't willing to waste their energy to save an already sinking ship. And if a better opportunity comes along, they're totally willing to hand current projects off or sacrifice.

3. You don't shy away from hypothetical scenarios.

It's natural--and often even advisable--to turn to previous knowledge and experiences to problem solve. But if you're asked a "what if" question and draw an absolute blank, it can be a signal that your attachment to previous methods or data is so strong that you can't abandon it to imagine yourself in situations you've never been in. You might not yet have the ability to determine pros and cons of circumstances that haven't happened to you.

4. You argue with civility.

Adaptable people will defend what they currently believe. But they also know they don't know everything. They will ask questions and hear people out to determine whether their current data sets are worth preserving, and they don't get angry with others for introducing new concepts. And if they do lose a debate, they leave it with respect and even ask the winner to teach them.

5. You can give a lot of updates.

People with low adaptability don't have much to say when catching up with old friends and colleagues, because they aren't doing or achieving anything new to talk about. Your adaptability is probably high if you can share progress frequently or you're surprising others with new accomplishments, pursuits, or captivating stories.

6. You surround yourself with explorers.

People tend to hang around others who have similar beliefs, interests, and behaviors. So, adaptable people are the ones whose friends and colleagues are always searching, taking new opportunities, and sharing the latest tidbit they've taken in. These individuals enjoy variety in their hobbies and daily schedule.

And if you score low after assessing yourself with these points? The good news is, like many other traits, adaptability is something you can learn to embrace. It all starts with just making teeny changes--for example, trying a new food, finding a new friend, or reading a different genre of book--a little at a time. As your confidence grows, the changes you make can get bigger and more frequent. And if you can learn to pivot with purpose as you become more adaptable, you'll be a force to reckon with.

Published on: Jul 16, 2019
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