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  • Writer's pictureReflective Resources

F is for Flexibility

“Bridges symbolize change and flexibility! They show us this simple philosophy: When you are on one side, you can easily move to the other side!” Mehmet Murat ildan

What is flexibility?

The word flexible comes from the early 15th century and originally meant ‘capable of being bent; mentally or spiritually pliant’. It derives from the Old French flexible or directly from the Latin flexibilis ‘that may be bent, pliant, flexible, yielding’ with its figurative sense ‘tractable, inconstant’ from flex-, past participle stem of flectere ‘to bend’, which is of uncertain origin.

Flexibility is seen as a positive character trait characterised by versatility and a capacity to be responsive to change; being able to adjust and adapt to unexpected, new, different or changing environments (particularly short-term changes) and having an ability to change our stance, outlook, etc

The degree of flexibility we have is measured by the extent to which we are able to deal with unexpected problems or tasks calmly and effectively. Flexibility allows us to keep an open mind so that we are able to modify our original plans, behaviour, thoughts etc and find new and creative ways to respond particularly when life has not gone as we had originally planned. When we learn to handle change with ease, it increases our productivity because it frees up the time and energy that you might have normally spent being stressed out over a new challenge

Why is flexibility important in life?

“The ability to recognize opportunities and move in new - and sometimes unexpected - directions will benefit you no matter your interests or aspirations.”

Drew Gilpin Faust

Flexibility opens us up to new opportunities and expands our capacity to handle change in an energy efficient way which allows us to thrive not just survive.

“Achievement is often a balance between following through with a well made decision, accepting the process, while embracing flexibility until its completion”

Lisa J. Morris

Flexibility is power, we are all able to empower ourselves in both in flexibility and in feeling comfortable with difference

“When the whole world is entrenched in the bunker of physical and often emotional isolation, only flexibility and ingenuity can revive us to remain grounded and imbibe the bolstering sunlight piercing through the canvas of chaos. (Because the world has corona)”

Erik Pevernagie

What are the types of flexibility?

Flexibility in relationships-and-communication

“Letting go of judgment and accepting others just as they are is difficult. However, it’s one of the most powerful Thoughtfully Fit practices. Flexibility teaches us the value of acceptance—full and unconditional acceptance of others. Even, or maybe especially, when you don’t agree with their choices or behaviours. It’s much easier to accept others when we agree with them 100 percent.” Darcy Luoma

We are all different and have our own unique idiosyncrasies. By this very fact we will find people we agree with and those we don’t. There will also be those who hurt us (intentionally or inadvertently). We have a choice whether to be judgemental, hold on to grudges or put aside our assumptions, remember our connections and seek to understand one another. In seeking to understand, not only does it free up our energy, but it helps to give some sense of logic and meaning to another person’s behaviour. By intellectualising things, it can help distance ourselves from our immediate emotions which then helps us go that step further towards acceptance.

“Many of us spend time thinking about all the ways other people could be different. Flexibility allows us to save our time and energy for things we can control.” Darcy Luoma

However much you like it or not, the only aspect of any relationship you have any real control over is what you give to it. You have no control over how another person responds or not. Your actions might have an element of influence on others but you have no direct control. Any communication is most effective when it is aligned with your values i.e. it will be more effective to set boundaries or request changes needed in the other person’s actions or lack of them, if you are speaking consistently, calmly and with confidence rather than crying, threatening or being generally emotionally manipulative or venting spleen. Connections work best when your ‘best self’ is communicating effectively with another’s ‘best self’.

“ Finding a way to demonstrate empathy or compassion, as opposed to judgment or avoidance, can also help strengthen the relationship. If you can’t accept and move on, can you get curious? Rather than making assumptions about what the other person is thinking or feeling, ask them. This can still feel like judgment, and so part of your job is to feel curious, not pretend or go through the motions. You need to try to move past your initial feelings and get to a place of curiosity and, ultimately, acceptance of what is.” Darcy Luoma

Flexibility of mind

“We put terrible pressure on our minds. When we tighten them or harden our views or beliefs, we lose all the softness and flexibility that makes for real shelter, belonging, and protection. Sometimes the best way of caring for your soul is to make flexible again some of the views that harden and crystalize your mind; for these alienate you from your own depth and beauty.” John O'Donohue

The concept of diversity means understanding that each individual is unique and recognizing that our unique individual differences play an essential role in a flourishing society. Diversity means more than just acknowledging and/or tolerating differences, rather it recognises that each of our individual differences share a purpose not only in our individual friendships but in society as a whole and it is proactive in encompassing acceptance and respect. Diversity requires us to learn how to relate to those qualities and conditions that are different from our own and outside our own particular groups to which we belong, yet are present in other individuals and groups.

“Embrace a diversity of ideas. Embrace the fact that you can disagree with people and not be disagreeable. Embrace the fact that you can find common ground - if you disagree on nine out of 10 things, but can find common ground on that 10th, maybe you can make progress. If you can find common ground, you can accomplish great things.” David Boies

Flexibility, like assimilation and accommodation are important aspects of a growth mindset and lifelong learning. We enlarge our capacity for understanding when we have the ability to look at things from different perspectives and have time to reflect and follow through trains of thought. Embracing flexibility is a skill that can be learnt and which we can get better at over time and in so doing as we become open to new ideas, we are able to refine our own values and become more resilient.

“We need to encourage habits of flexibility, of continuous learning, and of acceptance of change as normal and as opportunity - for institutions as well as for individuals.”

Peter F. Drucker

Flexibility of body

“Not only is yoga excellent for flexibility, but it is also a great tool for longevity and injury prevention, as it allows for internal body awareness.” Kyle Shewfelt

Good balance and flexibility allows your body to be more in control in your physical environment. Flexibility, with respect to the body, is the ability of a joint or series of joints to move through an unrestricted, pain free range of motion.

Flexibility is one of the most important, yet often overlooked, components of physical fitness. It has many positive effects on the body including improved mobility, posture, muscle coordination etc and it reduces the risk of injuries and muscle soreness. Without flexibility, the muscles and joints would grow stiff and movement would be limited and/or painful.

Flexibility is a reflection of your life. Your body is the lens through which you view your life; every tension in your body is a reflection of how you live your life. When we take time to stretch and listen to our body it allows us to experience the interconnections and the oneness in life and in all that is.

Becoming more flexible takes patience. It is not going to happen overnight, but instead requires intention and deliberate determination and then followed through with action and consistent practice. Flexibility of body starts in the mind because it requires a lot of mental discipline and focus

“The measure of a person’s strength is not his muscular power or strength, but it is his flexibility and adaptability.” Debasish Mridha

Flexibility of spirit

“The boldness of asking deep questions may require unforeseen flexibility if we are to accept the answers.” Brian Greene

Being flexible and acknowledging your own areas of ignorance is your bridge to knowledge and to greater levels of understanding and clarity when communicating and connecting with others and planning your future

“Blessed are the flexible, for change is inevitable. To fulfil our true destiny as spiritual beings we must trust in our divine power to adapt.” Anthon St. Maarten

Flexibility of action/Flexibility in the workplace

“A bad plan is better than no plan, and the most important quality of any plan is the flexibility to change.” Judson L Moore

Flexibility is essential in the workplace in order to quickly adapt to changes of plan, new circumstances arising etc; essentially allowing you to be able to navigate or overcome unanticipated obstacles.

“For organisations, flexibility is a must to cope with fluctuations in demand and remain competitive, and people must be able to develop adaptable attitudes to quickly embrace evolving business conditions, new business opportunities, and shifting strategies.”

Alain Dehaze

Developing flexibility in business is not just limited to moving projects on. Learning how to repurpose ‘redundant’ resources or diversify as plans change is a useful skill which will save money as well as being beneficial for the planet

“In terms of business resilience, it's important to have the ability to repurpose inputs and redirect outputs. It's important to have a good amount of flexibility designed into the businesses operating systems. When a business can answer the if this then that question over and over again with different fill in the blanks, it's got resilience.” Hendrith Vanlon Smith Jr

As well as offering flexi-time, flexibility in the workplace can manifest itself as taking on different roles and responsibilities, being allowed to work part-time whilst studying, flexible leave and sabbaticals, compressed work week, job sharing, gradual retirement etc

Flexibility of life

“Be infinitely flexible and constantly amazed.” Jason Kravitz

When we allow ourselves to be flexible and curious, we can appreciate the challenges and different opportunities that life throws at us rather than becoming stressed or being paralysed through fear.

“Curate a lean life that allows you to move flexibly through your universe to experience greater joy at speed.⁣” Richie Norton

Flexibility combined with simplicity allows us to develop a better appreciation for life and focuses our attention on the positive and that which uplifts thereby enhancing our joy and happiness.

It is good to build healthy habits but within this to be fully open to the unpredictability of life and to flourish it is essential to develop “Spontaneity-flexibility within a routine.” Marty Rubin

Flexibility and time

“You don’t want work life balance. You want work life freedom. You want a time centered seamless lifestyle. You want...time flexibility. The flexibility to spend your time where, when and how you want.” Richie Norton

Flexibility and music

“Music calms the soul and improves the plasticity, flexibility, and sensitivity of the perceptual world.” Debasish Mridha

Flexibility and creativity

“Creativity has always depended on openness and flexibility, so let us hope for more of both in the future.” Siri Hustvedt

“Actors require flexibility, a kind of openness and readiness to leave their comfort zone.”

Atul Kulkami

How can we increase our flexibility?

“If you want to be more flexible and adaptable, practice challenging your comfort zones.” Akiroq Brost

We increase our flexibility through a willingness to learn. Not just a passive willingness, but when we allow ourselves to step outside of our comfort zone and open our minds to different perspectives, actively seeking new ideas and ways of doing things. Flexibility requires action. If we don't make an effort to pay attention and learn new skills, we are likely find that when something unexpected does occur, that we won't be equipped to deal with it. Being curious and seeking to equip ourselves with new information, puts us in a better place to adjust our habits and usual ways of doing things and helps us respond more effectively to changing situations.

“My strength is my flexibility. As a batsman, I have to adapt to different roles and numbers and frankly, I have been around for a long time now to understand different situations.”

Dinesh Karthik

Focusing attention on the positive, rather than dwelling on negative will help to stay resilient, focused and flexible

Deliberately creating opportunities for breaks or changes in our usual routines can provide us with opportunities to discover new things or mix with different people

“Intelligence is the handmaiden of flexibility and change.” Vernor Vinge

Even if we can’t predict the future, a key to remaining flexible is to anticipate, looking ahead at potential benefits and risks, so that we can plan for the unexpected. When we can do this it allows us to respond from a position of calm rather than react from a position of stress.

Having a strong and stable support network around you that ‘have your back’ and that you can rely on to support you is essential in times of flux.

Flexibility does not mean putting aside your core values, but by having core values that don't shift, they can be used as anchor points to help keep you grounded during periods of change or when communicating with others.

How flexible are you?

“Let no one think that flexibility and a predisposition to compromise is a sign of weakness or a sell-out.” Paul Kagame

How many times have you ever looked at things differently?

How does this make you feel?

How many times have you been disappointed or frustrated in others for their responses then argued and become upset or angry in a situation?

How easy do you find it to adjust your thoughts, emotions and behaviours in response to a situation where you ‘know’ you are right and ‘they’ are just being ‘unreasonable’ or are just plain ‘wrong’?

“Wisdom lies neither in fixity nor in change, but in the dialectic between the two." Octavio Paz

The ability to create space for flexibility means that you don’t limit your options and it gives you the ability to change all-or-nothing, ‘black and white’ thinking (I’m right, they’re wrong, I’m being manipulated, disprespected etc) and allows yourself the opportunity to gain insight from the greys restoring your power and setting yourself free from frustration, upset, anger etc

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” Albert Einstein

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