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7 Ways To Be More Adaptive In This Fast-Changing World

7 Ways To Be More Adaptive In This Fast-Changing World

#ProTip – pull out the quarters, and pay Coinstar to convert the rest to paper, so you don’t look as poor as you actually are…

A few years back, Barrack Obama impressed everyone and won the presidency of the United States on a platform of change. Midway through his second term, his constituents are standing in the streets begging for a different kind of change, as they’ve lost their homes and gone broke while their government turns their back on rampant financial fraud in the banking industry.

Regardless of who’s in power, change is the only constant in our lives. As soon as you get used to something, it’ll be different. Whether you’re at work, home or anywhere in between, we live in a fast-changing world, and you need to be adaptive.

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1. Acknowledge There Is No Right Way

I grew up in a military family. Everything was strictly regimented and scheduled. There were a variety of chores and tasks with one, and only one, way to accomplish them.

When I grew up, I realized there is no one right way – my parents were simply training me to do things their way. The “right” way to do things changes as soon as someone figures out a better way, and if it’s not you, it’ll be someone else. Either try out new ways of doing things or follow those who do.

2. Join The Collective Consciousness

There’s value to thinking outside the box, but if you go too far out, you disconnect from the collective consciousness and look crazy to everyone else. The key to being different is understanding how to bridge the gap between you and everyone else. This is what separates a leader from a lone nut.

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3. Avoid Predictive Hubris

You know who’s annoying? That know-it-all friend we all have who’s been there and done anything you could possibly come up with. Every idea you have, they know exactly why it’ll fail, despite never having tried it themselves.

In order to adapt to change, you have to accept both how things are and how they could be. Instead of immediately shooting down every idea and infuriating everyone around you, suck up your pride and try out the new way. Nobody cares how you’ve always done things – change is inevitable, and you don’t want to be left behind.

4. Keep An Open Mind

It’s impossible to accept a change you refuse to recognize. Minorities exist. Homosexuals exist. Hundreds of religions exist. Women exist. Everyone ages and dies.

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All of these truths have existed since the dawn of man. None of us grew up in a world where everyone is the same. Accept people for their differences; otherwise, you’re an obstacle to change, and you’ll never get ahead in life.

5. Communicate With Your Circles

Sometimes the only way you even notice change is by talking to people, and that’s also how to adapt to it. When you talk to your friends and family about impending change, they’ll provide feedback and open your mind to new perceptions of the changes. They may guide you through how to adapt. At the very least, they’ll listen while you figure it out.

6. Blaze Your Own Trail

The easiest way to adapt to change is to be the catalyst affecting it. When I worked for the banks, the constant changes in my daily routines were caused by government regulations, lawsuits, etc., that changed our processes. When I left my career at the bank to dedicate my life to fighting them, I became the cause of all their regulations over the past three years.

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It doesn’t matter what ring of the ladder you’re on, you can shake the entire thing. Never allow anyone to tell you that you can’t do something the way you think it should be done. If you’re wrong, at least you’ll have learned something from the experience of trying.

7. Question Everything

Religion is a funny thing – you follow all sorts of traditions with no real understanding of why. In the Catholic church, we imbibed wine and bread to represent the blood and body of Christ. I never knew Jesus personally (an unfortunate side effect of my inability to time travel), but I know if I were a leader or martyr, the last thing I’d want is my followers eating my flesh, drinking my blood, and wearing crosses to celebrate my torturous death.

When you’re told to do something, ask why. If something changes, ask what inspired the change. You were given a brain for a reason; use it. Change is difficult to deal with, but if you work at it, you can adapt to anything. Just keep your head up, smile and push through. Soon enough, you’ll be the change everyone else has to adapt to.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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