Friday, March 29, 2013

Being Flexible, Adaptable, and Optimistic

Flexibility, adaptability and optimism.  
Sounds so nice, doesn't it? What's the first thing you think of? Your friends? Colleagues? Your mind? Pet? 

Since this is a yoga blog, I'll first liken the phrase to a yoga class.  

You have to be flexible in a yoga class. No - I don't mean the physical kind.  In fact, it's much easier to teach people who are less flexible physically because they actually feel the correct alignment a little easier.  I'm talking about the being-able-to-change kind of flexible.  You have to come willing to be flexible in mind, and open in spirit. New sensations may arise in your body.  Be okay with this.  Someone's mat might be too close to yours because the class is too big. Be okay with this.  You might hear a lawn mower outside. Be okay with this. 

Adaptable.  You might not think your body is capable of becoming more physically flexible.  You may enter yoga class with the mental blockage: "I know I can't do this pose - I'm just going to stay in downward dog for a while," or "This teacher's style is not what I'm used to - I probably won't like it." 
If you know a pose will be too hard for you, adapt.  Grab a block or a prop of some sort and try it anyway.  Who cares if you don't go as deep as everyone else.  Adapt to your surroundings - surrender - and allow yourself to learn something new.  

Optimism. You know how you have those bad days once in a while and even though that smiley person on the subway annoys you sometimes because they talk too much, they always, at some point, make you laugh? Be that person that makes other people laugh.  I'm not talking about bouncing into the office and saying "Good Morning!" really loudly to everyone you see first thing in the morning - but take any inner turmoil that you may wake up with in the morning and meditate on this: Everyone you meet today is going through something worse than you.  Since you have the awareness that all it takes is a conscious decision to be happy, you need to be the one to turn their frown upside down.  

I heard these three words from a friend who was a fire fighter for many years, later became fire chief, and who himself heard these words from the chief of the London Fire Brigade.  When describing how the LFB tries to maintain an organization that is dedicated to effective public service the Commissioner said that "the organization tries to hire people who are flexible, adaptable and optimistic."

I looked up the London Fire Brigade website just to confirm that it was true.  On their application for employment the following was a qualification for hiring a Deputy Head:

Demonstrable influencing skills, able to be flexible and adaptable to different people and situations, using empathy and perception to instil confidence in others
- London Fire Brigade 

I got to thinking what it would be like if every place of employment hired employees in this way - instilled these principles in their teams and fostered these sentiments in team meetings.  If every school instilled them in their classrooms.  If every parent reminded their children....  

I decided to break each point down and really study each word - Influencing: The capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something.  Flexible: Able to be easily modified to respond to altered circumstances or condition.  Adaptable: Able to adjust to new conditions or to be modified for a new use or purpose. Different: Unlike in nature; novel and unusual. Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Perception: The ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses. Instill: Gradually but firmly establish (an idea or attitude, esp. a desirable one) in a person's mind. Confidence: The state of feeling certain about the truth of something.
If you really took each of these definitions to heart and truly demonstrated what the LFB looks for in their employees...

Do you know what would happen?
Your confidence would flourish (something the universe desperately needs); your ego would disappear; your heart would open fully; you would serve others selflessly; collaboration would create beautiful things; you would understand that there are others - humans and non-humans on this planet - that are made up of the same stuff you are - that they essentially are you; that your positive influence can have a major impact on someone; that it's not so hard to modify slightly in order to create positive change; that you are unique; that the world needs you to share and speak your truth; that this can all be accomplished by Love. 

Gabrielle Bernstein does a great job of speaking the truth in this video

Now think of those words again: 
Flexibility, adaptability, optimism.  What do you think of now? Do you embody these at work? With your friends? With strangers? Your partner?

If not, it might be time to start opening your heart and speaking your truth.  

Be flexible - with yourself and others. Adapt.  Be optimistic.  It's hard not to be when truth is all you know. 


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