Learn to Be Flexible

ropes-993425_640Twelve seconds. That’s how long it took for Julia Gunthel to set a new world record. It happened in Cologne, Germany on November 23, 2007. In only twelve seconds, Gunthel popped three balloons with her back. While I have trouble bending forward to touch my toes, she can do it bending backward.

That’s because Gunthel is extremely flexible. Doctors say she has the ligaments of an infant, allowing her to twist and contort herself into all manner of strange positions. She discovered her amazing ability when she was four years old and now performs all around the world – wrapping her legs around her head and folding herself into boxes the size of a carry-on suitcase.[Tweet “You don’t have to be a professional contortionist to be flexible.”]

Of course you don’t have to be a professional contortionist to be flexible. Given the ever-changing nature of today’s workplace, flexibility is a skill we should all be developing. Those who learn to bend without breaking will always have the advantage over more rigid competitors. Here are three ways being flexible provides a leg-up.

Flexibility allows you to adjust quickly in the face of new information. Inflexible people and organizations have a difficult time adjusting to an ever-changing world. They create policies, procedures, and plans based on a particular set of circumstances and find themselves at a loss when those circumstances change. Those who are flexible understand from the outset that today’s plan might not work tomorrow. Because they haven’t adopted too many sacred cows, they can more easily tweak plans as needed to stay ahead.

Flexibility allows you to recover faster from unforeseen setbacks. Everyone gets blindsided occasionally. Just today, I found myself called in to an unanticipated meeting that threw off the schedule I’d laid out. When this happens, inflexible people find themselves under the gun – behind schedule, scrambling to make up time, and stressed. Those who are flexible know not to paint themselves into corners. They leave enough wiggle room to shift priorities around in a way that ensures setbacks don’t derail their entire plan.

Flexibility allows you to take advantage of short-term opportunities. When someone knocks on the door of opportunity, you want to answer it. This is really hard for some people to do because they’re hands are already tied. They’ve created such a rigid system around them that they can’t move on a new opportunity for fear of dropping something from their already crowded plate. Flexible people know some great could lie around the next corner, and they want to be ready for it.

So, how do you become more flexible? It all starts with your mindset. Consider these mental approaches to change. In general where do you fall on this continuum? Challenge yourself to adopt a more willing attitude toward change with the ultimate goal being to reach level five.

Level I – I am resistant to change. I hate it. Change is typically bad, so I fight it.

Level II – I tolerate change. I don’t like it. There’s no need for it. If it has to happen, get it over with.

Level III – I embrace change. I am ok with it. Change is typically good, so bring it on. I’ll go along.

Level IV – I assist change. I like it. Change is needed. I want to play a part in making change go smoothly.

Level V – I lead change. I love it. If it’s not broken, let’s break it and make it better. Follow me.

Julia Gunthel has inspired a wave of potential performers. Thanks to her example, others are flexing their muscles and trying out new, often uncomfortable, positions so that they too can enjoy her level of success. Add a spirit of flexibility to your workplace toolkit and see who you can inspire.


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