Having diverse strengths has always been a bonus, but in the past, you may have been able to get by with a fixed set of abilities or specialties more so than we can today. Those around you that you see as successful are employing everything from shrewd business acumen to honed writing skills and the soft, subtle world of human sociology and psychology to make their way in the world.
They’ve sharpened their instincts to know which skills are needed and when. In many ways it’s the age of the generalist rather than the specialist, and I think it can be explained pretty well by the traditional serenity prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Accepting the things you can’t change…
There are things – many things – that simply are what they are. We aren’t in control of the players, circumstances, or nature of these things, nor are we likely to be. So instead, the adaptable learn to maneuver within, around, or in spite of them, and continue along their own course.
It’s the ancient idea of being water around obstacles, or in this case, circumstances over which we have no control. Those that continually succeed largely do so because they’re able to identify the things that aren’t within their control and figure out how to incorporate or avoid them.
Changing the things you can…
Focusing your energy in the places where you can make a difference. Applying your knowledge, skills, or curiosity to those situations is always going to net you something more than pounding away at an immovable object.
Adaptability means that you not only aim to affect change, but that you’re patient enough to select the right tools, pace, and approach for the job.
Knowing the difference…
There is so much turmoil in humans that often we can’t tell a solvable problem from a fixed one.
We fight against immutable laws of human dynamics, instead of spending energy on forging relationships that matter to us. We judge other people for their perceived shortcomings rather than focusing on honing our own skills and exploring our own values.
This is a hard thing for us to accept sometimes. I’m guilty of it, too. But the more I observe, the more I think that those who are nimble, adaptable, and capable of improvising from a broad toolbox are the ones that will continue to thrive. Evolution keeps proving it over and over again.
Next time you’re frustrated or up against an obstacle, ask yourself whether or not you can change it, and if not, what you can do to work around it. You might just find yourself capable of solving more problems and making more progress than you might have imagined.