Life has a way of getting in the way of our plans. It rains heavily on your wedding day. Or traffic from outside your doorstep makes you late for an important meeting even though you left in good time. How about spending nearly all day at the hospital but not getting the help you needed? Or your spouse or family member refusing to see your well-thought out point of view that you strongly feel is the solution to a problem. All these situations are potentially frustrating.
Flexibility is a very useful quality that can help us get through many of these difficult and, at times, nerve-wracking moments when things seem to be in disarray. Flexibility is being open to change. It is what enables us to change course when we find barriers in our path and also allows us to make mistakes without feeling destroyed by them. It’s also considering others’ ideas and feelings without insisting on one’s own way.
Flexibility gives us new and creative ways of getting things accomplished. It helps us rid ourselves of bad habits and acquire new ones. It is a very worthwhile virtue as it helps us respond and adapt to the changes that life delivers each day and also to keep changing for the better.
The need for flexibility in day-to-day life cannot be overemphasized. American author, speaker and social researcher Michael McQueen points out that we all approach everyday life with rules and expectations (many of which are unconscious) that dictate the circumstances under which we feel we can be happy, content and satisfied. He goes on to say that this means that the more rules we have, the more opportunity we give for circumstances and other people to upset us and steal our joy.
Most of us also don’t like change and prefer predictability. It makes us feel safe. Nonetheless, change is one of the constants of life so we must always remain prepared and in anticipation of the unexpected in all situations. When something doesn’t work the way we think it should, we need to consider what we can do differently. Flexibility requires us to be curious and open to different experiences. It also requires a change of attitude. Instead of a “my way or the highway” stance, we could start viewing obstacles, not as impossible challenges that we will never overcome, but as opportunities for growth and greater insight.
It’s important to point out that flexibility does not mean being wishy-washy but moving a little with the winds of the time while remaining solidly anchored in the ground, as Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest and writer said.
Be on the look out for different areas in your life and different circumstances where you can apply this virtue. Also, make a resolve to respond positively to new circumstances and take in new information in your stride and adjust accordingly, where you can, and also learn to embrace and adapt to change in a healthy way.
Let no one think that flexibility and a predisposition to compromise is a sign of weakness or a sell-out.
Paul Kagame, Sixth and current President of Rwanda
Thus, flexibility, as displayed by water, is a sign of life. Rigidity, its opposite, is an indicator of death.
Anthony Lawlor, Irish Fine Gael politician and farmer
Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, and it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.
Bruce Lee (1940-1973), Hong Kong American martial artist
Be firm on principle but flexible on method.
Zig Ziglar (1926-2012), American author, salesman, and motivational speaker
Planning is helpful. If you don’t know what you want, you’ll seldom get it. But, no matter how well you plan, you will fare better if you expect the unexpected. The unexpected, by nature, comes unseen, unthought, unenvisioned. All you can do is plan to go unplanned, prepare to be unprepared, make going with the flow part of your agenda, for the most successful among us envision, plan, and prepare, but cast all aside as needed, while those who are unable to go with the flow often suffer, if they survive.
David W. Jones, American pastor and author
The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.
Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born theoretical physicist and violinist
Flexibility is important in all areas of life. Take, for example, a man, whose principle goal is to provide for his family and see to it that they have a good life. He may, in that pursuit of working hard to put food on the table, miss out on having a relationship with the very thing that’s making him work so hard; his family. He needs to be balanced and flexible. If one lacks these two, he may miss out on many things essential for his wellbeing, spiritually, physically, emotionally, and psychologically.
Mwangolo Jilani, 25, IT Specialist
Published on March 2014