April 2020

The secret to grow your future: know how to adapt

graphic Banksy art of neanderthal man carrying tray with fast food

Don’t Deal With It.
Adapt To It.

I have to confess, I’m a bit of a prehistoric geek.
And especially fascinated by the Neanderthal.
But sadly, they get a bad name :(

Instead of being moronic brutes, research shows they were intelligent and social.

So why aren’t they still around?

The common theory for their demise is that Homo sapiens wiped them out.
But there’s evidence we happily lived side by side.
Science suggests their decline was due to something else.

Neanderthals were great at survival.
After all, they were around for millennia.
But as the climate and food sources evolved, and competition emerged, they struggled to change.
They couldn’t adapt to the world around them.

So what does this mean for you?

In a nutshell, it’s important you can adapt.

Let’s say you live in London, like me.
Do you adapt to the weather and carry an umbrella?
Or take the attitude 'I’ll deal with it, if I get wet'.

The first empowers you.
The other puts you at the weather's mercy.

A situation that had an impact on all of us, was the global pandemic.
The world was plunged into chaos, your daily routine thrown in the air.
Work, travel, shopping and even what you ate.
It was all forced on you out of the blue.
A total shock.
But how did you react?

Did you 'deal with it' or 'adapt'?

At the start, supermarket shelves were stripped bare.
You couldn’t enjoy your usual meals.
How did you respond?

Dealing with it, you cobbled together your usual food, but with half the ingredients missing.
You made no attempt to create something new.

Adapting, you got creative with your cooking.
You looked up new recipes online.
You experimented with food combinations you’d never thought of.
(Ok, I drew the line at sardines and chocolate ice cream 🤢)

The point is, even though situations are forced on you, you still have choices.
It’s all down to how you react.

So let’s delve deeper into the dealing versus adapting, and see how using an adaptive mindset, you’ll

  • Get perspective on tricky situations
  • Channel your energy productively
  • Effectively use support from others
  • Break out of old habits and create new solutions
  • Be better prepared for the next challenge

The five game changers of dealing versus adapting mindsets

1. Firefighting Fix vs. Purposeful Problem-solving

Dealing with it, or firefighting, suggests doing the minimum to survive.
It focusses on immediate short-lived solutions.
Only reacting when something happens.
It’s a process you repeat over and over.

This gives the illusion of swiftly getting to grips.
You’re reacting rather than lying down and giving in.
You feel empowered.
But it’s deceptive, as none of your energy is preparing for the future.

Adapting focusses on longer term solutions.
Still tackling the current situation, but also problem solving for the future.
In other words, planning ahead.
So next time around you’re better prepared.

Example - A forest fire.
You need swift action to extinguish the flames.
But in addition, firefighting teams work to prevent it happening again.
Like installing water stations and creating breaks in the trees.

2. Microscope View vs. Aerial Drone Action Shot

Dealing with it focuses on tiny details.
Often preventing you seeing the bigger picture.
You can’t spot broader changes that would help.

Adapting is about stepping back and creating perspective.
You see the forest, not just a tree.
Taking time to make one broad change instead of a million little adjustments.
This saves time, energy and is more effective in the long run.
In other words, don’t get fixed on what’s right in front of you.

Example - Growing a company.
As companies grow, so do the number of departments.
When a crisis happens, each department busily works on their individual tasks.
This is the microscope view.
Because departments don’t necessarily know what the others are doing, a good CEO will take an aerial perspective.
By directing the whole approach they can bring one sweeping solution. 

3. Go It Alone vs. Use Support

Dealing with it asks "How can anyone else truly know what I’m experiencing?"
You might not have the time or desire to share your challenge with others.
So you convince yourself it’s better to tackle it alone.
This might make you feel in control.
But it isolates you. You only have your own ideas and energy to draw on.

Adapting means reaching out
Opening your mind, exploring options and creating space for others to help.
Even if you’re the only one experiencing something, communicate and connect with others.
This taps into the support and resources around you.
Don’t be alone.

Example - Arranging a picnic with friends.
If you’re organising it, you’ve got two choices.
Tell everyone to bring some drinks and grub with them, or do it all yourself. I know which I’d choose!

4. Rely on Habits vs. New Thinking

Dealing with it, you default to your usual behaviours when facing a challenge.
But these habits can close your thinking. You’re not making any changes.
It’s ironic. They could be the very thing that led you to the challenge in the first place.
So how can they solve it now?!

Adapting, you try things out and experiment.
You come at it from a new angle.
You’re curious, brave, innovative.
You open your mind and get creative when it comes to problem solving.

Example - Like Neanderthal, sometimes it’s not an immediate challenge you’re aware of. The threat is long term, hidden in the background.
This could be lifestyle choices that damage your health.
Or only living day to day. Not making any plans for your future.

Think left and think right and think low and think high.
Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!
- Dr Seuss

Discover how to escape old habits.

Read my article Is Stubborn Thinking Keeping Your Life Stuck?

5. Resenting vs. Embracing

Dealing with it means putting on a brave face.
But underneath you’re resenting and resisting the situation.
You’ve thoughts like

  • Why’s this happening to me?
  • When will it all end?
  • What am I supposed to do now!?

Psychology tells us negative thinking impacts outcome.
You ruminate to try and make sense of things.
This feels safer than accepting there may not be immediate answers.

Adapting, you accept the situation for what it is.
This neutralises unhelpful thoughts.
It prevents them damaging you.
You think, 'I can’t change what’s going on right now, but I’m going to embrace what I can do and be empowered.'

Example - Your gym’s shut because of a burst pipe.
Do you sit sulking? Resenting the situation?
Or do you throw on your gear and do an online class, or go for a blast outside? 🏃🏃🏿

What screws us up most in life,
is the picture in our head of how it’s supposed to be.
- Socrates

What you can do

An adaptive mindset means you adjust to different conditions or environments.
When a challenge strikes, try these to come out on top

  1. Take a moment, step back, and look at the bigger picture.
  2. Look beyond your immediate challenge or problem.
  3. Ask yourself 'who could help?'
  4. Be aware of your behaviours and decisions.
  5. Modify habits to produce a different outcome.
  6. Try something new, be curious, experiment and get creative.
  7. Don’t get trapped by your negative thoughts

Here’s your challenge.

What’s one specific problem you’re struggling with?
That if you could adapt to, would put you on top.

Now shift your mindset by applying one of the 7 adjustments above.
Be open to creating a different outcome and empowering results.

Don’t be a Neanderthal.

Don’t deal with it.
Adapt to it.

Stay inspired, take action, keep adventuring!

Matt Ainsley

life adventurer and unconventionalist

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