Successfully Adapting To Change

I was out walking recently and heard green canaries chirping in the trees above. This led me to consider the meaning of “adaptability” and how important that is in our world today. Green canaries are not native to the UK. Coming from warmer climates, they have learned to adapt not only to the UK vegetation and food, but also the climate. How did they do this? 

Being able to adapt to changing circumstances gives the possibility to see and embrace new opportunities, as well as to flow rather than block what is happening around us without becoming a “Yes” man or woman and just going along with everything, therefore being run roughshod over. 


When it comes to adapting and changing are you pivoting or adapting? 

Pivoting is the ability to slightly alter your behaviour to accommodate a need created by one person or situation.  You might pivot to make a computer algorithm work, or to bring stability to a procedure or process in response to a situation that requires immediate change. It is not a short-term, superficial correction. It is a long-term solution that requires behavioural, procedure and system process change. 

Adapting on the other hand, is also about change in processes and procedures as well as adapting your behaviour to a change in business processes, company strategy or direction. When you adapt, you respond to a situation that requires change and “make suitable, make fit or suit”. 

 As the world is constantly changing, it is necessary for us to both pivot and adapt in response to change.  Businesses, to survive need to adapt to changing external circumstances, such as new competition, economic and financial crises, lack of talent in the market, and many other reasons.  Internally within the organisation there can also be reasons, such as loss of market share, computerisation of certain processes and development of new products.   

Change is recognising that we need to adapt or change from where and how things are now to what we want them to be.  It is not always negative.  The negativity around change is often individual perception which blocks ability to think positively and flow with the change, rather sticking with “the devil we know rather than the devil we don't know,” even though things might not be functioning the way we would like them to function.  

As humans we tend to create a default behaviour that includes routines, habits and patterns around seeking pleasure, avoiding pain and conserving energy. This is termed your “comfort zone”. The familiar and automatic ways of how you organise your life around what you know with little or no thought needed.  

 Your comfort zone will include actions and thoughts, for example actions might be getting a coffee from your favourite cafe on the way to work, checking emails every 30 minutes, taking the same route to work every day, and brushing your teeth after each meal. Thoughts might include patterns around “nothing will change, therefore why try?”, “I know I’m right”, and thoughts of “I can” and “I can’t”.  

A comfort zone keeps you stuck in mediocrity and may even threaten your health and well-being as well as overall achievements.  Some comfort zone patterns and behaviours serve you, some do not as they can be very limiting and stop you from adapting and changing at times when it is needed. All have costs and payoffs. 

Having grown accustomed to our comfort zones, they become largely invisible. 

 This means you have to consciously make an effort to “see” when you are in your comfort zone and question, especially in situations that require change whether a particular comfort zone is serving you or not. It is natural to struggle at some point with the unknown, preferring to stay with the familiar. It is that same comfort zone that can result in you becoming stagnant, dis-interested and lethargic. Stepping out of your comfort zone to adapt and change is what creates growth and personal development.


What are typical reactions and responses to the need to change? 


Responses are likely to link to various comfort zones and other perceptions and personal goals and might include, but not be limited to: 


  • Denial 

  • Playing politics 

  • Desire to stay with the familiar – comfort zone 

  • Resistance – finding all the reasons why this is not a “good idea” because of: 

  • Fear of failure – anxiety “can I cope” 

  • Fear of job security – perceived threat 

  • Mistrust  

  • Embracing the change as it highlights potential opportunities 

  • Excitement around something new 

  • And many more. 

Many of us struggle with the need to change on some level and these reactions are mostly natural and understandable, with the exception of playing politics. The Kubler-Ross change curve illustrates clearly the process we go through when facing the need to change:


  1. Shock – surprise or shock at the news and the fact that things are going to change. 

  1. Denial – Disbelief and looking for evidence that it is not true. Talking to others about what they have heard, why it might be the case and why it cannot relate to you. 

  1. Frustration – That you now recognise that things are going to be different. You might have some feelings of negativity, even frustration and anger. 

  1. Depression – A reaction to knowing that change is inevitable, resulting in lack of energy and low mood, which might be dispersed with bouts of anger. 

  1. Experiment – Initial engagement with the new situation. It is likely that you are hesitant and are not embracing the required change. Mechanical rather than whole-hearted, because is it something you “have” to do, rather than want to through personal choice. 

  1. Decision – Realisation that the change is here to stay, and you are coming to terms with it by supporting the process. Usually at this stage you feel more positive about it. 

  1. Integration – The change has been integrated and become the new norm. Mood and behaviour is consistent and positive as you feel “at one” with the new processes and system.















How can you create stability around situations that require you to adapt and change? 


Address your attitude and approach– Whenever you are faced with the need to adapt, whether in a discussion when you do not share the same opinion or some other situation. Perhaps a decision has been made that you disagree with or there is a process, system or restructuring change needed in the work environment? What attitude do you adopt to discuss the issues that you face? Do you present a stubborn, unwilling, resisting person, or do you use enquiry to understand more before making up your mind?  


Cognitive Ability– The cognitive aspect of adapting is reflected through your ability to enquire curiously. The desire to know more before you create your own opinion about what is required or potentially is about to happen. Only at this point making a decision using logical thinking and then expressing your opinion, thoughts and suggestions to support the need to adapt or change. 


Emotional Reaction– If you care about something, it is very unlikely that you will not have some kind of emotional reaction. If you agree with the change you will likely demonstrate positive emotions, if you do not agree, then you might express this inwardly or outwardly. Inwardly suppressing your feelings and not sharing them with anyone, making it difficult for others to understand how you feel about the situation. If you express it outwardly there can be an array of reactions from a raised voice that is desperately trying to protect the current situation to anger and aggression, demonstrating a “controlling” approach that is pointing out all the reasons why this is not a good idea, and why keeping everything the same is the right thing to do.


How do you manage these aspects of your “human being” so that you can adapt more easily? 


  1. Listen to what is being explained without commentary. Hear what is being said without evaluation. Make notes if you need to. 

  1. Open up the discussion, asking questions to clarify any points and to fully understand.  

  1. If you agree with what is being said, say so and clarify points around any next steps. If you do not agree, avoid needless discussion and subjecting others to a barrage of reasons that making such changes is not a good idea. 

  1. Re-frame your position – think first of the positives around the suggested change and discuss those and then if needed ask questions to see clarification around aspects that appear to be less positive. 

  1. Pose your questions that highlight your concerns in relation to the change. Allow for discussion, remaining open and positive. 

  1. As a result of the discussion, define what is expected and any goals. Gain agreement. 

  1. If you feel that it is still not a good idea having heard the answers to your questions, you can express this. At the same time, give your commitment to support the changes and adaptations needed. 

  1. Accept and flow with the changes. 


Every success story is a tale of constant revision, adaptation and change.

-Richard Branson

Our E-learning course ‘Adapting to Change’ is coming soon. In the meantime, why not view our current catalogue of E-learning courses?



On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross M.D 


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