Updated: Dec 30, 2020
My grandfather loved to play golf. During retirement he played with his friends a couple times a week. But as he got older his game began to decline. Rather than playing frustrated, he decided to change the way he played the game.
Instead of taking a full swing and hunting for his ball in the weeds, he began taking half swings. His shot didn't go as far, but his ball landed at the center of the fairway with remarkable consistency.
Watching my grandfather transition his golf swing taught me an important lesson about life. We need to adapt.
We may need to change because of our own emotional, mental, or physical limitations, or change can become necessary because of external factors. Either way, doing things the way we have always done them won’t yield the same results. We can push forward using the same old approach - fighting reality - or we can recognize the need to adapt.
In evolutionary theory, adaptation occurs when organisms adjust to their environment - biologically or behaviorally - to survive. Similarly, contemporary scholars speak of adaptability as “the quality of being able to change.”
Adaptability is also a key ingredient for career success. Peter Heslin, a Professor of Management at University of New South Wales, suggests individuals can develop adaptability the following ways:
Engage in the process of organizational socialization. You can proactively adapt within an organization by using information-seeking and feedback-seeking tactics.
Believe you can change. Adopting a mindset that says you can develop new skills will improve your ability to adapt to career challenges.
Recognize and reduce your defensive reasoning. Don’t get defensive or blame others when things go wrong; instead, take time to learn from the experience by reflecting on your assumptions.
Understand and nurture your network. Developing strong and weak ties can help you navigate job and career changes. Do your part by helping others along your journey.
Find your balance. Understand that great success in one area usually doesn’t lead to feeling successful. Effort devoted to happiness, achievement, significance, legacy, and spirituality will help you experience enduring success.
In order to adapt, we must increase our self-awareness so that we can monitor, understand, and react to internal changes and a rapidly changing world.
Hall, D. T., & Chandler, D. E. (2005). Psychological success: When the career is a calling. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 26, 155-176.
Heslin, P. A. (2005). Experiencing career success. Organizational Dynamics, 34(4), 376-390.
Laertius, D. (2018). Lives of the eminent philosophers. Oxford University Press.
Savickas, M. L. (1997). Career adaptability: An integrative construct for life‐span, life‐space theory. The career development quarterly, 45(3), 247-259.
The title of the article and quote in the image is attributed to Greek philosopher Heraclitus (535 BC - 475 BC).