It is slowly becoming clear that our future as leaders and citizens is going to depend on staying adaptable in perpetuity! In the complex, dynamic interdependence of today’s world, I understand that concept intellectually.  The emotional part of me, however,  craves more predictability in my life.

Lately, I’ve been scanning news about global weather events like massive rainstorms, wildfires, poor air quality, strings of super-hot days, growing severe drought and the list keeps going…. These disruptions are a sign of climate change. Frankly, nature is giving us feedback on our inaction.  These weather events (and others) require us to confront our adaptive capacity. Will we choose to change our eating habits? Cut back on our water usage? Reduce or eliminate the use of fossil fuels? Change our relationship to and tolerance of waste? The list of behaviors we should and must change goes on for a long time.

Climate changes don’t only affect the weather, of course. These events ripple through our families, our communities, and our organizations as we grapple collectively with the implications of climate on how we do business, and how we live our lives together.  We also have to solve these problems by remembering not only our current state, but the lives of many generations to come.

This is only one aspect within a complex system forcing us to adapt. COVID-19 is also giving us feedback on how our decisions of the past are continuing to show up and influence the present and future quality of our lives. The pandemic is challenging our traditional thinking on how we’ve constructed our society. Our bias towards individual freedom at the cost of collective safety is on display. Our legal system that supports the tenets of individual freedom embeds even more tension and causes the system to be less adaptable to meeting the challenges a pandemic creates. It ripples through our choices, and how we think and believe.

Our views on the disruptions in our lives and the triggers to adapt might differ depending on our communities and our geography. One thing remains clear – we need to strengthen our capacity to continually adapt to the changes that are here…. and the changes coming our way.

The silver lining

There are days that we feel overwhelmed by the need to adjust.

The silver lining in this situation is that we are actually designed to adapt.

In nature, adaptative capacity is the standard way of being. Species and plant life and ecosystems constantly adapt as a way of life. Natural systems adapt all the time. As humans, we are a part of nature. Our individual and collective capacity to adapt is already embedded in us.

If this is true why does all this change disturb us? Why does the thought of adapting in perpetuity seem so daunting?

I think it’s because we have a dysfunctional relationship with control. If we think we should be able to control everything around us and shape it for our own wishes, then we focus on controlling uncontrollable things. This causes us to add stress to our lives because we think we should be able to create stability – and therefore eliminate the need to adapt.

We live with the myth that we shouldn’t be asked to adapt. And if we need to adapt, we’re doing something wrong by being not powerful enough, for example.  This dynamic reinforces the delusion that our lives would be better if we didn’t have any disruption at all.

Nature has spent 3.8 billion years adapting. It is the essence of the dynamic of life and if we don’t adapt, we don’t learn or evolve. I invite you to reframe your relationship with the world around you and see feedback as a gift that will help us, individually and collectively, learn, evolve and thrive.