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Is adaptability the key skill in 2021?

Is adaptability the key skill in 2021?

No-one would have guessed what 2020 would bring.

The past year has brought around major changes and upheaval to people’s lives with jobs lost, schools closed, vacations cancelled, and graduations online. Any semblance of our normal routine was overridden by the severity of COVID-19.

If we could take away one thing from 2020, it would be that life is unpredictable, and change is constant. Unfortunately, it seems that the battle for normalcy is still raging on as the future is still uncertain. Consequently, stress levels are soaring due to the struggle to control the situation. So, is adaptability is the key skill we need to develop so we can survive these changes that are still coming our way?

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It’s surprising that people don’t like change as we change our mind all the time; whether it’s cooking at home instead of ordering delivery, or putting a different pair of shoes on before heading out. But if change is so constant, why do people struggle with it so much?

Research shows that the reason may be evolutionary. Humans are hardwired to stick to their routines because it’s safer that way and doesn’t pose any risk to our survival or expose us to potential danger. We like consistency; it’s why we rely on our habits so much.

In terms of biology, perform the same behaviours again and again doesn’t require as much energy. Essentially, what it does is that it routinises the behaviours we do, so it takes less energy in the thinking part of our brain called the ‘neocortex’. Simply put, sticking to what we know is a lot easier for our brain to process. So, when we have to change our daily habits, this can put a strain on our brain’s processing power, causing us to feel stressed.

Other factors such as previous bad experiences, poor planning, and no control over the change can also result in people struggling with it.



Resilience and adaptability often get confused with one another. Although similar and intertwined, they are two separate skills that a person should develop.

Resilience can be defined as the ability to swiftly recover from setbacks or difficulties. Whereas the adaptability is when people take those difficult situations, they find themselves in and adjusts it to create a positive outcome.

Being more adaptable means that you will:

  • Be a better leader
  • Embrace new challenges
  • Be open to change
  • Learn flexibility



We’re constantly experiencing transitions in life. In education, transitions include going from primary school to secondary school, and from secondary school to university. Transitions can also include moving into a new home or getting into a new relationship.

But for the people who don’t actually cope with change well, how do you actually develop adaptability?

Step out of your comfort zone

One common misconception that people have about change is that it has to be abrupt. Well, this year has been abrupt enough as it is. The reality is definitive change doesn’t typically happen quickly; it gradually occurs over a period of time. Be resilient. Stick to something new. Although it’ll be hard a first, over-time you’ll become more adaptable as a result

Have an open mind

If you have a closed mindset, you’re going to struggle to try new things. Although you may naturally want to resist any thought of changing from your current habits, especially since you’ve experienced enough change this year, you have to think more positively. At the end of the day, our mindset is our greatest weapon for getting through adversity.

You may be one of the many people who experienced a setback this year. It makes sense to be upset about it at first, but eventually, it helps to think of the experience as an opportunity for better things and start taking positive actions to get to where you want to be. This doesn’t even need to be just for major changes, such as losing your job - it can be as small a setback as someone postponing the Zoom catch up you were looking forward to.

Reflect on past experiences

Take a survivalist attitude and reflect on how you’ve overcome previous experiences of change in your life. You have to give yourself more credit and be compassionate towards yourself. You can handle change a lot better than you think. Ask yourself questions about previous times you’ve experienced change, what went well and what didn’t, and then reflect on what happened moving forward.

Once you start focusing on what you were able to control, rather than what you can’t control, you’ll find that you’re able to cope with a lot more than you think.

Be open to learning from others

Recognise that it is okay to ask other people questions about how they cope with change. If you know someone who exhibits some key adaptability traits, then ask them for any guidance or tips they may have. If you find it difficult to ask for help, then recognise that it’s actually okay to do so: it’s not a sign of weakness and will only help you in the long run.

So why not try and sign up for an online course, or watch a masterclass with a really successful person to get their perspective on life and any tips they may have about succeeding or coping with change?


Final thought

2020 has definitely been full of change that has thrown many of us out of our comfort zone. However, change isn’t anything new and happens all the time in everyday life. Therefore, it’s important to find ways to better cope with change.

The best way to cope with change is to be adaptable. By stepping out of your comfort zone, learning from others, changing your mindset, and reflecting on past experiences, you’ll reap the benefits of adaptability in no time.

For more tips on how to get through 2020, check out our blog about coping with lockdown in the Winter and why having a sense of purpose is so important.

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