Flexibility Is The Key

Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Posted by: Robin Fortenberry

For the purpose of this article, flexibility has nothing to do with yoga, Pilates or gymnastics. It has everything to do with taking a different approach than your normal way of accomplishing goals and overcoming set-backs. The definition of flexibility is "the quality of bending easily without breaking". While this the definition is in the physical sense, I feel that it is relevant with what our society has been dealing with and for what may be to come. We want to bend, change and adapt but not to the point of simply giving up. The real key is to be cognitively flexible in order to improve your ability to create options.

So many changes have come about since this past spring that it has been vital to step back and look at situations as they are happening today and, create a completely different approach. If you think back about what life was like before March, most of our daily operations and processes happened in a very methodical manner. Sure there were changes and challenges that would come about but nothing in the capacity of what happened and, would continue happening in regards to coping with Covid-19. Then, in mid-March, we began dealing with large changes like closing down a facility, restaurant or office building. Jobs being lost along with the potential for critical health issues of family, friends and ourselves. Then came the new challenges of creating safe methods of operation once we were able to open back up. Each of these unique to the different industries and operations. Not to mention that we were forced to take normal daily activities like taking an exercise class, going to school, meeting with colleagues, attending a social function or visiting with friends or family and move these items to a virtual world. These are just a few of the very great and impactful changes that had to be dealt with and there were absolutely no guidelines or "how to" guides that we could use for help. Those who were willing to be flexible and accept change, took time to think, adapted and we're able to move forward.

Success during times of challenge many times comes from the ability to be cognitively flexible. Having this ability allows you to be more open to the possibility of different scenarios of actions to overcome difficulties. Some people have a natural tendency to use cognitive flexibility while others struggle with this concept. This is actually a tough subject for me to give advice on. Anyone that knows me personally knows what a determined and somewhat stubborn person that I can be especially with my own life. I like things neat and organized and happening in the steps and order that was intended. Whether or not it’s the fact that I am softening as I age or, that the new "Covid Culture" has forced me to change, I am recognizing the benefits of flexibility and feel that it is really key for not only success in our goals but as a method to get through life’s biggest hurdles and maintain sanity.

Here are some tips on how to develop or improve your cognitive flexibility:

  • Question your thoughts and words. Become more aware of what you are saying and thinking. Listen to your words. Instead of being attached to your current way of thinking, try a different perspective.  Substitute negative or rigid thoughts and words that don’t serve you with more positive ideas and phrases. 
  • Try something different. Learn to play an instrument or dance, cook a new recipe or even pick up a new language. These type of activities support brain development.
  • Change your scenery.  Go for a walk around the block. Take a coffee break. Take a vacation. Switch up your environment, and you will feel your mind shift. Exercise offers a great mental boost while offering a change of scenery.
  • Learn from your mistakes. When things go wrong, it is important to look at why it happened and what can be done to avoid such events or improve outcomes in the future.
  • Look at things from others perspectives. By opening yourself up to other people’s ideas and mindsets you can change your whole way of thinking and experience new and exciting things both in work and life. This type of thinking can help you to take more risks, try new things and generally keep life exciting.

Flexibility can be used in so many different scenarios in our lives. It is a key component in trying to adapt a new exercise routine or starting a weight loss or healthy eating plan. Any time that you are attempting to make changes in your life, obstacles will come up. When trying to overcome these obstacles, a flexible approach may be your best solution. The past eight to nine months have been more than challenging. In all likely hood the changes and challenges to our daily lives will continue and possibly increase. So perhaps we should adapt the mantra from a recent series of tv and radio commercials. But instead of thirst, stay flexible my friends.

Robin Fortenberry, Director of Fitness Services, ACE CPT
Evelyn Rubenstein JCC of Houston