You know flexibility is one of three parts of a recommended physical activity program, along with aerobics (cardio) and strength training. Lately, I’ve found mental flexibility lacking in others—and please, if it’s lacking in me, shake me up hard here. It’s important not to confuse lack of flexibility with discipline—it takes discipline to be successful, to achieve your mission and your goals. I think lack of mental flexibility is a bit like lack of spontaneity.
It’s more like rigidity.
Developing mental flexibility
Maybe I call you and ask, “Hey, do you want to go to lunch?” and you can’t go because of work. But if nearly every time I call to ask you to do something, you read off a list of errands you’re running today, and you share what’s on your schedule the next few days, and make it clear that you couldn’t possibly take time off to spend with me, I “might” think you’re inflexible. I might especially think this because I “get” what it’s like to work a lot. I might think you’re inflexible if you have a policy of hardly ever leaving your house at night—even when I invite you to dinner or to a movie. Or is that just being stubborn or “set in your ways”? Maybe I think you’re inflexible if you believe everything you read or hear—and that content always takes the same position. If I did that with my work, I’d never work again: Research, fact-checking and objectivity are all if we’re going to be well informed and understand all sides.
Not the same ‘ole, same ‘ole
I found this blog from quite a few years ago on the Ohio State University Leadership Center website. I think it’s great! You?
“The essence of mental flexibility is the ability to handle different situations in different ways, especially to respond effectively to new, complex, and problematic situations. The mentally flexible person is able to:
- see things from several different perspectives
- tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty
- take risks willingly
- adapt to change
- learn from mistakes
- solve problems in new ways
- switch between practical and non-practical thinking.”
Get more mental flexibility
Behavior expert Megan Coatley says flexibility is a set of behaviors that can be changed. Change is good. She wants you to:
- accept your behavioral history
- identify places where you can compromise
- practice flexible actions
- set small goals for mental stretching
- reward your choice to retreat
- learn that failure is functional
The next time you feel yourself falling into a repeated behavioral pattern that may prevent you from having fun, growing in some way or achieving something new, try and be flexible. And so will I.
Let’s flex our flexible mental muscles.