How To Be Flexible

by Amanda Linehan on February 23, 2009

in Uncategorized

Reed and red
Creative Commons License photo credit: Per Ola Wiberg (Powi)

“It is far better to bend than to break.”  – Aesop (from The Oak and The Reed)

We often don’t like the idea of “bending” to anyone or to anything.  For many, that appears to be the path of weakness, and our pride won’t let us back down.  But learning to be flexible is a skill that allows you to “go around” when you can’t “go through.”  It is a test of our creativity and allows us to let go of some of our own self-importance.

Bending to other forces might be seen as “wishy-washy,” but in the end you will be the one left standing.  Where others stand rigid and break, you will be supple and bounce back.

Accept Things The Way That They Are

The first rule of flexibility is to accept circumstances the way they are.  Wishing and hoping that something were different only serves to waste your own energy, taking resources away from what you hope to accomplish.  Acceptance is tied to the knowledge that you control very little and the belief that you won’t worry or waste your time on things that you can’t control.  You will only spend thought and action on the things that you can influence.  This is a difficult mindset to hold because there is so much that we have no influence over!  Knowing what to spend your time on will greatly increase your chances of finding the fulfillment and success in life that you seek.  Reminding yourself of the way things actually are serves as a starting point for you to take creative action against the obstacle that has appeared in your path.  Accepting things as they are is the only way to change them.

Use Your Creativity

Every individual on this planet is a creative being, because, by nature, human beings are problem solvers.  Being flexible is the ultimate exercise in creativity because it involves imagining possibilities and then taking action towards those possibilities.  When you are faced with an obstacle you can try to go through it, but if that doesn’t work, you can always go over, under, around, or any other way that you can think of.  Focus on the solutions to problems rather than the problem itself and you will find yourself energized to creatively come up with a solution.  You can’t be creative if you are too rigid to move.

Always Expect Change

Most people expect stability as the rule and see change as the exception.  However, if you flip that around and see change as the rule and stability as the exception you will be well prepared to consistently use your flexibility.  Change occurs constantly and often rapidly.  If you keep that in mind, you will always be ready to jump into action when the situation requires it and adapt to whatever change in happening.

The oak tree may be magnificent in it’s strength, but it’s the reed that survives the storm.  Be the reed.

What do you think – flexibility or strength?  Are there any situations where you feel strength is preferable?  Feel free to leave your answers in the comments section.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lance February 23, 2009 at 11:58 pm

Hi Amanda,

The quote and picture fit this writing so well!

Change. It’s the one thing we can be certain of. And the best way to be prepared for change is to be flexible. Strength may prevail sometimes. Being flexible though, almost always works. Being flexible says you’ll adjust (bend).

This is a great concept Amanda. The more flexible we are, the easier life will be as we go through the many twists and curves that come our way…

Lance’s last blog post..Sunday Thought For The Day

2 Daphne February 24, 2009 at 12:40 am

Hi Amanda, I don’t think flexibility and strength are opposites. Flexibility and rigidity are opposites. Often materials that are strongest are also flexible. I think strong people know when to bend and when to stand firm. You’re right that being adaptable is a strength too!

Daphne’s last blog post..Just Keep Showing Up

3 Roger February 24, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Hi Amanda,

Great thoughts!

While I agree that flexibility is a strength, the propensity of our minds to be inflexible when confronted with difficulty is one of the main causes of suffering.

Western culture does a poor job at teaching us how to work around problems. More and more we are given images of a quick solution; take a pill, get a divorce, etc… Looking for alternatives allows us to think through many of life’s daily issues which often seem relativity insignificant a few days later.

When we are flexible, we also tend to be more open minded which allows us to see situations where we need to be strong more clearly. Something to think about.

Namaste

Roger’s last blog post..How Does a Microwave Work?

4 Amanda Linehan February 24, 2009 at 11:02 pm

Lance – That’s right, we can always count on change. As long as we are flexible enough to adapt, we’ll be alright :)

Daphne – Great point! I missed that – rigidity is definitely the opposite of flexibility, not strength. Thanks for pointing this out! :)

Roger – Yes, not having the ability to adapt when necessary causes us a lot of unnecessary struggle. It may take more work, but ultimately we will be more creative.

5 Jarrod - Warrior Development February 25, 2009 at 3:37 am

Being flexible also allows you achieve what you want while also giving other people what want.

Sometimes 2 peoples desires seem conficting on the surface but if you are flexible about how you resolve then you often satisfy all parties.

6 Ian Peatey February 25, 2009 at 6:32 am

Like the post, Amanda! I’m a great advocate of flexibility … but …

… for me it’s a question of timing. There are times when I need to be flexible and times when rigidity is needed. Oak trees might not withstand the storm as well as the reed, but they live longer and house an enormous microcosm of life.

I’m thinking of my 6 year old. I notice that if I don’t provide a certain rigidity at times, especially when things are a bit chaotic, then she just loses her ground and can’t cope so well.

Have you come across ‘The Work’ of Byron Katie? It’s a brilliant method for helping accept things the way they are.

7 Steve February 25, 2009 at 2:34 pm

Hi Amanda,

Great post! On the subject of change I like the quote “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”.

8 Amanda Linehan February 25, 2009 at 10:36 pm

Hi Jarrod – Right, being flexible certainly allows for more compromise.

Hi Ian – Yes, I didn’t think of it that way, but I like what you have to say about the “timing” of flexibility or strength, so it’s not just one or the other.

I haven’t read Byron Katie, but I’ll certainly check it out. thanks!

Hi Steve – Yeah, that’s a great quote that goes along really well with this post. Thanks for your thoughts!

9 Arswino March 2, 2009 at 3:15 am

Hi Amanda, this is a great article. I like when you said “Acceptance is tied to the knowledge that you control very little and the belief that you won’t worry or waste your time on things that you can’t control.”
Many people still struggle to change things that can not be changed. Like trying to change others. Wasting their own energy. It is easier to change ourselves.
Thanks for sharing Amanda. :)

Arswino’s last blog post..Did We Fail?

10 Amanda Linehan March 2, 2009 at 10:14 am

Hi Arswino – Yes, trying to change others is often a struggle that doesn’t lead to much! I agree, starting with ourselves is better :)

11 kirsten August 31, 2011 at 1:52 am

From Language to any Art Form, Rigidity is what allows Foundations to be transfered, Flexibility is what allows them to Develop. The Chicken and the Egg Story. The Story of it all: Ballance is Intelligence.

12 Amanda Linehan September 2, 2011 at 10:36 am

Hi Kirsten – Thanks for your thoughts. :)

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