Flexibility is a key skill for mental and physical health—and it’s one we often resist, comforted as we are by our daily routines. But the very randomness of life we insulate ourselves from is at the heart of many of our insecurities.
While we can’t get away from the discomfort of change, we can build a quicker recovery time by practicing flexibility in a little dose of personal challenge.
It may seem counter-intuitive to challenge your habits, especially when you’ve chosen them for maximum efficiency. This is your invitation to try going with serendipity and see where it takes you. Choose one of the 10 tips below and try it today.
10 Ways to Introduce Flexibility into Your Day
1. Be curious.
Ask more questions, take less at face value, dig a little deeper.
2. Anticipate change by reading ahead.
Get a start on learning about the next stage of life while still enjoying where you are now. Attend a workshop or Interview someone who is there, then write your resume for 5 years from now.
3. Make mistakes.
Take a calculated risk outside your comfort zone and put perfect aside.
As my art mentor used to say, “It’s only paper.”
4. Try something completely different.
Cross training is as good for your brain as it is for your body. Go for something you thought was out of your reach and unrelated to your best skills. You will discover new connections and possibilities.
5. Express gratitude.
Let someone who has been a tremendous positive influence in your life know how you feel about their contribution. Being open to others and expressing yourself with honesty keeps you authentic and helps you stay true to yourself in adversity.
Didn’t see one you wanted to try? It all seems a bit too risky? Think again!
6. Reverse direction.
If you always wash your hair first in the shower, next time start with your toes. When you reach the top of your head brainstorm solutions for a nagging problem.
7. Get lost.
When you’re meeting a friend for lunch, on the way turn off your path and explore a new direction or get there without GPS.
8. Use your time differently.
You would love to travel but lack time and money. Go to a completely different grocery store in another town for your weekly shopping. Find what you need with thoughtful choices and try new ingredients, don’t rely on autopilot.
9. Mix it up.
Interchange the pieces of two outfits and give your self-image a confidence boost.
10. Sleep on it.
Go to sleep on the opposite side of the bed then write down your first thoughts when you wake up.
Why Cultivate Flexibility?
Flexibility is reaching to your full range of motion and it’s integral to being agile. Agility and balance are two interrelated physical actions in a combination of speed and stillness, requiring strength and coordination. These concepts also describe the demands of today’s work environments: adaptability, quick decisions, creativity and high-level performance.
Our lives today are challenged continuously to move quickly and to stay grounded. Whether you’re responding to a problem or opportunity (sometimes that’s one and the same!) an agile response requires decisive, focused action in a short span of time. Life hands us circumstances that knock us off-balance, be it the fait accompli of natural disaster, death, or divorce, or the optional offer of a new job, relocation, or business opportunity. Responding holds an element of risk, we’re struggling to stay upright.
Flexibility is an important aspect of our sense of personal wellbeing. Increasingly we feel the need to respond faster and better to unexpected change while dealing with sudden ambiguity and grief from losses both small and large. Whether it is something simple like a favorite product is discontinued and you must search out a substitute, or more serious such as you must make time to help your loved one with a task they can no longer do on their own, or you must cope with a friend’s sudden change in behavior and attitude, being flexible can help.
If you’ve been fortunate to have longtime stability, for instance you go to school with the same group of people for 4 or more years, your family has lived in a town for more than 3 years, your elders enjoy good health and independence, feelings of loss can be very jarring, sometimes unnerving and even disorienting, casting a disturbing sense of unreality onto your perceptions.
When long-held beliefs and patterns are challenged and you feel you’ve lost your balance, that’s cognitive dissonance. Advertisers, politicos and more use it to grab your attention every day. The antidote is to rely on your record of past experience by building a practice of flexibility.
Responding to change is challenging because it can be both stressful and exciting. Flexibility helps us cultivate resilience to recover from the sudden ambiguity of change. It’s important throughout life. We humans have the great advantage of our natural adaptability, allowing us to generate change for ourselves and to cope when it’s brought about by circumstance. Children show us this as they grow and develop all the way into full adulthood, continuously reaching new plateaus of competence and systematically adding new skills.
New skills come with a certain amount of frustration as they’re learned, a fact any two-year-old’s tantrum demonstrates.
So say hello to your inner two-year-old, just don’t let her stop you.
Photos by Claire Mauro