Strengths Spotlight: Adaptability

By Diane Bell, Director of the Internship Program

Top 5 themBelles: Adaptability, Developer, Connectedness, Positivity, Relator

 “No matter how much structure we create in our lives, no matter how many good habits we build, there wil
l always be things that we cannot control – and if we let them, these things can be a huge source of anger, frustration and stress.  The simple solution: learn to go with the flow.” 
Zen Habits, written by Leo Babauta

Before I even knew about StrengthsQuest, I understood Adaptability.  Over time, things never quite went the way I thought they would, forcing me to go with the ebb and flow of life.

My family was evicted from our home when I was in elementary school.  I still remember seeing our possessions sprawled out on the sidewalk in front of the house. We were – for a moment – homeless. Suddenly, I was rising before dawn to take a city bus with my grandmother to attend school in my old neighborhood, in order to maintain a sense of normalcy.  I learned how to live in the moment because you never know what curve ball life might throw your way.

While that situation was unfortunate, good curveballs have been thrown my way.  Like when I participated in a 12-week summer internship with the Atlanta Braves between my first and second year of grad school in Buffalo, NY and three weeks into the internship, they wanted to hire me. I saw this sudden change as a tremendous opportunity.  What might have been stressful to others was exciting to me.

Adaptability is being flexible, embracing change, responding quickly to unforeseen events and unpredictable conditions and accepting things you can’t change.  It’s about letting go of control, not being “out of control.”  It’s about making the best of the situation.

Adaptability is part of my life.  As Director of BSU’s Community Service Center, volunteer projects didn’t always go as planned.  My reaction to those changes was based on my attitude toward change and my vision of the bigger meaning.  On one trip, rain hit the area where we were building homes and we weren’t able to work on the project the next day.  Everyone was anxious about what we’d be doing.  Not me. I asked our volunteer coordinator if we could visit the Boys and Girls Club. We also served lunch and interacted with people experiencing homelessness. The day was not lost just because we didn’t build homes as planned.  We had a small part in building lives that day.

As Director of the Internship Program, I handle yearly fluctuations in my funding source.  What keeps me grounded is the bigger picture – that there is a funding source to help students do internships, no matter the amount.

While I embrace my Adaptability trait, I am well aware of its drawbacks.  Sometimes the Adaptability theme may be misunderstood.  For example, I’ve had co-workers say things like, “You’re such a pushover; I can’t believe you said “Yes” to that change so easily”.  I’ve had staff come to me and say “You’re way too nice.  You just added more to your plate by agreeing to do this project”. Some people might feel as though I’m a poor planner…that because I haven’t planned, I’m easily swayed to change.  Not true.

My colleagues are quick to remind me that when I’m taken off course by a sudden change, I might be inconveniencing myself.  I don’t always see it that way.  Change is inevitable.  I do understand that I have to be careful not to let this talent steer me away from things that I must get done.  I also have to be careful that I don’t allow others to abuse my innate nature to be flexible.  Sometimes it’s not easy for me and I’m still learning when to “bend and go with the wind” and when to stay firm and on my own course.  This includes in my professional as well as personal life.

 “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 aside as needed, while those who are unable to go with the flow often suffer, if they survive.” – David W. Jones, author of Moses and Mickey Mouse: How to Find Holy Ground in the Magic Kingdom and Other Unusual Places

I rarely plan what I’m going to do on vacation. I book my transportation and hotel and the rest is left open for me to welcome new opportunities.  When I get there, I’m there, ready to embrace the ebb and flow of what life brings my way.


About cindykane

Director of @BSUInvolved and interested in leadership and professional development strategies. Mom, scholar-practitioner, looking to make an impact!
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One Response to Strengths Spotlight: Adaptability

  1. Mary says:

    Awesome article about a wonderful and caring mentor!

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