Flexibility is not a matter of turning spineless or so bendable you act like Gumby. Yes…I LOVE Gumby!…HOWEVER, Mastering flexibility means that you can balance the need for consistency with the need for change. Consistency can be the key in situations where a depth of understanding or discipline lead to growth. When the status quo is giving you success and joy, consistency is called for; when losses are occurring or you are missing opportunities, flexibility is in order. Hey, even Tony Robbins says, “Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.”
One of the biggest fears you can encounter in life is fear of the unknown. It is tremendously hard to take a step off into areas that are new from a place that is familiar. It’s unknown territory; unfamiliar and possibly dangerous. This is where the skill of flexibility helps you the most. The benefit that flexibility brings to your life is that it gives you a wider territory of the familiar. In essence, flexibility increases your comfort zone. When you are flexible, there is a larger area in life that you have navigated before – that feels comfortable or at least familiar. Flexibility allows you to leave behind the usual, the narrow and ordinary; it allows you to continually do something a tiny bit differently. Over time, you forge a new, wider path that is less unknown and less fearful.
Brain science has taught us in the past decade is that this is actually how change occurs in our thinking patterns, habits and behavior. You must develop new neural pathways in your brain in order to change, grow or progress in your life. Change requires you to go into new territory, at least in terms of where in your brain things are processed. If all you do is try NOT to do the old habit or behavior – say you are trying to stop swearing – you will never succeed. Every time you focus on not doing it, you strengthen the “doing it” pathway. The same old neural pathway in the brain that keeps you doing that behavior gets stronger if you try to resist doing that behavior. However, if you find yourself some new, less offensive words and develop the habit of using them, you will lay down new neural pathways in your brain and actually change. The power to change lies not in changing the old, but in developing something entirely new. This is flexib- ility in action.
The way to utilize this part of fierceness is to actually practice flexibility. No, not physical stretches, though your body might be grateful for that as well, but mental and behavioral stretches. Here are some examples: drive to work on a new route, cook a dish you have never eaten before, speak to strangers in the grocery store, eat with your fork in the other hand or use chopsticks…yes, I just ate a typically American dinner with chopsticks, or just do something out of the routine and the ordinary. This allows you to intentionally and consciously activate your flexibility and just like a muscle of your body, your ability to be flexible will grow. It is not that you are training your mind to use chopsticks or learn a new food preparation, you are giving your brain the ability to adapt to a variety of new situations to be prepared for whatever life may bring along. As Edward de Bono, authority on creative thinking, said,
“If you cannot accurately predict the future then you must flexibly be prepared to deal with various possible futures.”
The final point in a discussion of flexibility is that we are not talking about taking foolish risks. Flexibility means staying within the limits of which you are capable, just pushing the limit slightly to beyond what is comfortable. It is not a leap into a great unknown, but a slide into the area beyond the illumination of the street lamp. It is a calculated risk. It is required for growth and also for success.
Hey…whatever YOU do, It’s all perfect just the way it is…the way YOU are…NOW!