Developing Personal Flexibility

Developing Personal Flexibility

Just as there are many facets to emotional intelligence, so there are to resiliency. One key skill that contributes to both is flexibility.

We all have an initial reaction to the word. I think of people who don’t need life to be rigid. People who can quickly adapt to change. This is definitely an aspect of flexibility.

Here’s a great definition:

“Flexibility is the ability to adjust your emotions, thoughts, and behavior to changing situations and conditions. This component of emotional intelligence applies to your overall ability to adapt to unfamiliar, unpredictable, and dynamic circumstances. Flexible people are agile, synergistic and capable of reacting to change, without rigidity.”

So then what is it that makes some people flexible? What are they thinking and doing differently that enables this flexibility?

• They don’t catastrophize situations

• They don’t let their emotions overwhelm their ability to think and problem-solve

• They problem-solve on the fly sometimes

• They are not easily deterred if the first or second idea don’t work

• They don’t entertain self-destructive dialogues

• They are comfortable with great, letting go of perfect

• They reframe situations looking for benefits and the positive aspects to changes

• They are resourceful being willing to get help and engage others

• They process emotion at times and in ways that allow them to not be bogged down by them

• They look forward towards a solution

• They focus on the solution versus who or what to blame

• They see quitting as a valid option in some situations and don’t need to equate it with failure

You get the idea. Let’s play with some of the questions that these flexible people may be asking themselves: questions that can help any of us.

• What are my choices right now?

• What is the worst thing that could happen with each of those choices?

• What skills do I have that can help me through this?

• What is making me feel stuck?

• If I was through this situation what would matter most after?

Is there a process here? I suspect there are many and each of us will find our own that works based on our unique strengths and skills. Let’s see what we can distill though.


1. Roadblock or problem occurs

2. Answer or solution is not immediately obvious

3. Begin scan of possible solutions and ways forward

4. Acknowledge disappointment, fear, etc. but not to dwell on it

5. Draw on internal and external resources

6. Brainstorm and choose forward action until a roadblock is hit

7. Repeat

How can we grow in our flexibility?

When we notice a barrier to moving forward and we notice our emotions escalating, having some grounding questions handy can really help.

Acknowledge the emotions and promise yourself that you can come back to them but don’t let them paralyze you.

If you can see flexibility as a bunch of specific skills and practices that you can train yourself in, then you may be amazed at how quickly you can grow this aspect of both emotional intelligence and resiliency.

Until next time,

Coach Marilyn

Marilyn Orr is Executive and Leadership Coach with Capacity Building Coaching, holding her Professional Certified Coach designation with the International Coach Federation. Marilyn provides professional coaching for executive and business leaders, mentor coaching for coaches, and leadership development support in the form of coaching skills training and soft-skills development.

Marilyn is author of everyday resiliency workbook "How Absorbent Are Your Shocks?", available on Amazon. Subscribe to "Marilyn's Musings" twice monthly blogposts for more leadership and professional development content.

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