Do Not Underestimate Your Ability To Adapt

This was my first week back to work after four weeks of tears, joy, laughter, profound happiness, frustration, sporadic sleep, and extreme tiredness. I have mixed feelings about being back. Part of me wanted to go back so badly because I miss my work and interactions with my patients. However, the other part of me was reluctant to see the end of my paternity leave because I loved every moment of spending quality time and undivided attention to my wife and the little guy. Anyhow, as much as I anticipated myself functioning at only 50% of my capacity on my first day, it turned out that I was not like the “walking dead”. I was still able to react relatively responsively to jokes and humour with pretty much no lag time.  As I opened up the pharmacy in the morning, I was overwhelmed by the number of cards and gifts from many of you help to celebrate the arrival of our newborn. It was such a humble feeling to be loved and supported by many of you. All I can say is how lucky am I to have you wonderful people in my life.

As the day went on, my energy levels dropped a notch, and my thoughts drifted to my wife and the little guy. I was thinking more about my wife. A wave of worry started to erupt out of thin air. I was worried to the point that I need to call her just to make sure she is coping with the baby alone. But to my relief, my wife replied to me in a calm and a collective tone, saying – “ I’m fine, and I’m adapting.” This calm and reassuring response from my wife placed all my worries to rest.

We are indeed living in a fast pace society, especially in the post-COVID world where adaptability reigns supreme. Whether it is in business, life, relationships, and health. The need for adaptability has never been more relevant than it is now. Many of us like to think of ourselves as flexible and adjustable. However, when it comes to change, most of us are actually a lot more resistant to it then we believe. This is because change is usually difficult and is never easy. It’s our natural human instinct to stay within our comfort zone despite knowing that we need to step out of it for us to grow.

I look at change and adaptation like chocolate and coffee. It is the perfect combination that goes hand in hand. Whenever there’s a change, adaptability always follows. If we don’t adapt, we will simply be replaced.

Charles Darwin, one of our great minds of the century, knew about this from the get-go and his words still very much resonate in the 21st century;

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, it is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

However, being adaptable is not merely about being flexible. It is more about maintaining an open mind to new things, whether or not they contrary to our teachings and beliefs. It is about self-awareness – knowing your limits and capability. It is not about expanding your comfort zone but rather exploring beyond it. This adaptive mindset allows us to recognise that change is inevitable, and it is the only entry ticket to a better life. Take me for an example. Four weeks ago, change to me was often a slow and incremental process. However, the birth of our little guy has given me a whole new perspective in understanding the word “adaptation” and “change” – that it’s rapid, radical, and unpredictable.

From someone who knew nothing about how to look after a baby to close to being a seasoned pro at changing nappies and burping in only four weeks. From living a lifestyle catered for two people to adjusting our daily routine to accommodate the new addition. I was in awe realising how fast I could change my bad habits despite failing to do so for over the past two decades. Overnight was all it took for me to become the man I am today.

What amazes me so much during the past four weeks was that I witnessed change and adaptation in action through my son. My observation from his feeding technique is a classic example of change and adaptation. He started not knowing how to latch correctly. However, over multiple cries and screams, he is now able to find a way to open his jaw wide enough to have a perfect latch. This just proved that we are programmed to adapt to change, even from as early as being a newborn!

Many experts suggest adapting to any change requires two things: the skill to do so and the will to endure. However, what being a first-time dad with only four weeks of parenting experience has taught me is that the ability to un-learn and reduce our prejudice to zero is the ultimate skill required for adaptation to happen so rapidly and easily. It is the willingness to seek to challenge what you presumably already know and override your knowledge with new information.

Have you ever wondered why it takes a child to learn how to ride a bike much faster than an adult? It’s because kids do not have presumable knowledge of how to ride a bike. They are literally starting from zero. Hence, their adaptation is more flexible when compared to an adult with prior bad experiences with learning to ride a bike.

As we all face numerous uncertainties ahead of us in our post COVID world, we must seek refuge not from our comfort zone but the beyond. We must value self-awareness over self-satisfaction. We must look at reality in the face and not shy away from it. At the same time, we must free our minds and reduce our prejudice to zero so that we can ride on the waves of change, no matter how intense they are. Only by doing so we’ll know how to adapt and remain optimistic about forging our way through the yellow brick road despite how long it may seem.

To your challenges and opportunities