Adaptability: The Ability to Adjust to All Life Brings
As humans, we’re adaptable by nature.
In our not too far off past, our adaptability helped us to survive.
Not to make ourselves feel less lousy or because we knew it was important to “get over it” but because our very lives depended on it.
Take a minute and think of how that would look in this day and time.
If we still relied on our adaptable nature to survive, what would be important to us? What wouldn’t be so important?
Well, we no longer need to be adaptable to survive. Not really.
Our environments play a large part in how we adapt, and I’m not talking about the nature vs nurture argument… not yet, anyway.
I’m talking about the physical elements we interact with on daily basis: the climate.
And before you stop reading because you think I’m talking about climate change and blah blah, I want you to know we’re not talking about climate change directly, “…today, we’re not going to talk about how we’re changing it. We’re going to talk about how climate changed us.”
NPR hosted a story about how human history shows our “gift for adaptability.”
One of the guests, Dr. Potts, explains that our ability to adapt as humans is largely because, once upon a time, we lived during a “prolonged period of extreme climate variability.”
…the idea that we’re working on is that this instability, this tendency of the environment to vary to a wide degree, was a real driving force in the emergence of the ability to adapt.
“The rub of life is this: If you don’t adapt to changes in your environment, you die.” -Christopher Joyce, NPR
While we have built our societies in such a way that this reality does not directly affect us in an absolute way, that doesn’t mean we lose the responsibility of adaptability.
What do I mean “responsibility”?
I mean, that as a culture, as a nation, as humans, if we cannot adapt to our every day lives what do we believe that implies for future generations?
Most of our current adaptations derive from past emotional and psychological experiences.
Adaptation is no different.
Our brains either evolved to incorporate and, therefore, rely on our ability to adapt or our lines died out. There is too much at stake in the physical and emotional world we live in to rely solely on the precious time and energy of others for our well being. It is our responsibility to learn about ourselves and take care of business.
In 2004, the first ever “Mind, Culture, and Evolution” conference was held for psychologists and scientists on both sides of the nature vs. nurture argument.
Dr. David Buss, Ph.D. of the University of Texas at Austin said, “…early human ancestors with such brains had more children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren than did hominids with different brains.”
In the present day, we can get over the behavior of ourselves and others and not be affected in such a way that our lives are on the line.
We can express ourselves online and join in with like-minded people about our woes and concerns. Now, more than ever before, it has become increasingly easier to only read and listen to others who believe and think the same way you do.
To me, that demonstrates our collective opinion that adaptation and learning have become less and less important to us. Instead of engaging to learn something, we engage to ruffle feathers or feel powerful.
We have molded our lives in such a way that we don’t think we need to be adaptable.
The world and everyone else can adapt to me, we say.
And while that’s not completely false, our adaptability is what sets us apart from every other life form on a psychological level.
Before we had more complex social dynamics, life was pretty simple.
There was a small group you associated with and, together, you adapted to weather, resources, travel, and predators.
You relied on each other, and out of reliance bred an adaptability.
Now, all we need are our phones.
Seriously. I can order an outfit, a meal, a friend, and a movie just by clicking a few buttons.
No, there is nothing inherently wrong with technology. This is not that kind of discussion.
However, this is a discussion about our God-given ability to deal with circumstances and come out better for it or live miserable and lonely lives.
When Jeremy and I were hiking in the UK this past summer, our first day was our worst day.
Smiling and anxious to get on our way, we were ready for the 267-mile adventure before us.
We were not intimately aware of how weather conditions normally played out in the UK. We thought wind and rain meant your average wind and rain. We were sorely mistaken.
The wind up high was much much worse than the wind in the valley by about 20-30 mph. Once we made it down the hill, we were met with a bone-chilling rain and severely wet everything.
We eventually made it to a road where it was time for plan b.
What should we do? We asked each other.
Instead of finishing our planned mileage for the day, we had to make a detour and stop at the only place with accommodation within miles of where we were.
On the verge of hypothermia and completely famished, I crawled into the tub praying to feel warmth again.
That was not what I thought our journey would look like. That is not how I expected to feel.
After a night of rest, we talked about our options. The only option at the time was to talk about an alternative plan. After two days of drying our gear, we set out for the rest of the hike.
While there were plenty of days we wanted to quit (I wanted to quit) we didn’t, and in July we finished the hike.
I tell you this story because we all have stories like this. No matter your age or current circumstances, you will have to adapt at some point.
The question is, how will you adapt?
Stay tuned next week for Mine Space Over Coffee’s episode about Adaptability.
I know you’ve got a lot of stories to share, so I want to know!
Did this resonate with you at all?
In what ways have you had to adapt?