Power Tool: Adapting vs. Surviving
Coaching power tool created for my International Coaching Academy course. The document was published by the school on their website.
This power tool was envisioned to help get clarity on the impact our mind has in the feeling of fulfillment we all look for, the impact it has on the definition and achievement of our goals. It’s an invitation to deeply understand what is important to us in life.
In our daily lives we experience many new things, good and bad, some result of our taken actions, others pure chance but all impacting on who we are and will be. We can call it our path of life, our destiny may be, where we get to live things, explore, learn, and evolve, gain wisdom or maturity. It’s our life journey. Some events we can have an impact on, others we don’t, who knows, but the fact is that for all of them we can choose how we are going to react to them.
We all have at some point in life determined a projection of the ideal life we wanted to have, and probably this was formed many years ago. This could be considered as a goal-setting, planning, something we aim for in life, and this is good, this will probably guide us in our early youth and first adult years. The goals we defined and the decisions we took were based on the experience we had at that time, so probably they were the best we could do with the information we had available. But we all know things might and probably will change during life, there are unexpected happenings that can make this projection somehow unachievable. We can also make decisions that don’t turn out exactly as we expected.
One important thing to do when we notice these unexpected changes is to understand how we are interpreting them and how they will affect our initial planning, understand how open we are to changes and how flexible we are considering our expectations. The way we perceive things has the power to mold our life experience and make us feel happy, favored by fortune or not.
We all have the power to decide how we are going to face adversities and changes. Are we going to look at it as a part of real living, learn from it or are we going to feel frustrated and somehow betrayed by destiny?
There is a beauty in facing life as a big unpredictable box of surprises, but I guess the majority of us don’t think about it this way. We plan and we organize ourselves to achieve some predetermined goals, kind of measures of success or our interpretation of it. We rarely or never plan to see ourselves having difficulties, being the financial, health-related, emotionally, or of any other nature. Nobody wants that, of course, and we will all try to achieve our so imagined ideal life. But if it just doesn’t happen? If we suddenly realize we can’t control what we thought was planned for us? If our dreams are somehow jeopardized?
Imagine you have dreamed your whole life to have a big family if your dream was to have 4 kids and you suddenly had only one, or that you wanted to have only one child and you had twins? If you wanted to get married only once and for life but you are on your third marriage? or if you wanted to be a CEO but you are not. What if things are different than what you imagined?
How to deal with that? This is the thing, who determines if something is better or worse than what you imagined is you. You are the one behind the planning, the imagination, expectations, and the feelings generated by it.
Life is unpredictable, we cannot control everything, but we can try to focus on what we can and try to adapt to the new circumstances.
Having your dreams questioned and reviewed can be hard but considering the “volatile” assumptions you made when they were first planned, makes this the main reason why you should do it.
If we look at the Cambridge definition of adapting, it is:
to change, or to change something, to suit different conditions or uses And/ or to change your ideas or behavior to make them suitable for a new situation
But many people don’t adapt, they stick to their original plan, they suffer, they feel powerless and with that, they bring a lot of significance to the initial planning they made for themselves. They live in sorrow and disappointment because their initial goals and dreams are destroyed, the ideal life will never happen. And this is bad.
If we look at surviving, it is defined as:
continuing to live or exist” or survive “to continue to live or exist, especially after coming close to dying or being destroyed or after being in a difficult or threatening situation
When you adopt, you change to suit a different situation, you evolve; when you survive, you only continue to live after a difficult situation, there is no positive change.
There is a negative feeling attached to surviving, the feeling that something went wrong, something that wasn’t supposed to happen, something that destroyed your dreams. Surviving is somehow focusing on the negative, giving significance to what has changed. Life is mostly built from ups and downs, unstable, uncontrollable events. We must be prepared to deal with it.
On the other hand, adapting is embracing change, be open to new possibilities, it is transforming. It’s a different perspective.
What could be done in this situation of survival mode is to challenge yourself by thinking: What is this feeling? What are those goals? What am I trying to prove here? To whom? What is important to me here? What can I learn from this situation? What is life telling me? What are my biggest achievements? What can I be grateful for? What do I want for the future?
Looking at things with a different perspective can change our feeling towards life from being resentful to feeling more grateful and hopeful.
There is also a big question mark about life, I will call it destiny, that we don’t control, so if we believe in destiny, we can consider that planning was just an exercise to give us some direction because at the end we will never know exactly what is waiting for us, right?
Exploring this new perspective can give us awareness and clarity to revisit our goals and our planning to match our new reality. It allows us to adapt.
The new path or planning will create can be transforming, with discoveries, new possibilities, and a lot of lightness. It will be aligned to our actual moment in life and adapted to a new vision.
We can’t give more significance to our initial planning than we give to our own life experience. When we focus primarily on our initial plan, we forget that life brings many new treasures and obstacles. Life is a journey, the only certainty we have when we are born is that one day we will die. This is a fact. All other possibilities are open.
We have to constantly explore and identify what we are giving importance to and choose what is going to follow us through our journey. What is serving us?
Having this feeling of not being complete, or of not achieving, or of only surviving adversities not adapting won’t make us feel better, actually, it will pull us down.
I used this power tool with myself and with a colleague and this gave us both the clarity that we were giving more importance to the planning than to our life experience, and this was game-changing. My colleague stopped thinking about what was different from what she had imagined when she was in her early twenties and realized that she didn’t even know if she wanted this anymore. So, she moved from feeling said that life didn’t turn out how she expected it to be, to suddenly realizing that actually, she had never stopped to think about the planning she did previously. She was only following it, blindly and because many things changed in her life, she felt she had failed not to achieve what she ideally planned, so the life that she was living nowadays was a failure. Having identified that, this feeling of constant failure and the reason behind it was crucial to give her clarity, self-awareness, and learning to make a shift. She suddenly realized nobody was asking her to do those things besides herself. And she started questioning and revisiting the original plan. She mentioned many times that this perspective gave her a lot of relief. She was so attached to her projected ideal life that she couldn’t free herself from it and was suffering from never achieving it. She was surviving to the life she never had.
For me, in my experience, the shift of this perspective made me feel grateful for the different experiences I went through and made me have a more relaxed feeling about the things I cannot control. I felt more fulfilled and happier with the life I have today and, I am more excited to see what is waiting for me in the next years to come.
It made me remember that life is not always exactly as we planned, and this is ok; it’s part of the game. We just need to constantly adapt to it.
And this gave me the excitement to restart, adapt, and keep moving. It’s being more conscious of our impact and our limitations. It’s evolving and adapting to new planning, much more realistic and mature. This mindset brought me serenity.
It is not about forgetting what was or is important to us, it is about giving it the importance it should have, it is adapting it to our present reality and being ground earthed. Living life with lightness and learning and evolving with it and from it all the time.
It might seem weird to kind of rethink your plan for life, but this can and sincerely, should be done, always and constantly.
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.- Albert Einstein
And keep moving in life is being in constant change, mutation, and evolution. It’s being aligned with our present and our future, be more conscious about life’s natural uncertainties, be aware of our choices and limitations, and be aligned with our true needs and expectations. There will be a time where we won’t feel sorry about not reaching the initial planning anymore because we will understand and accept that life is constantly changing and we will reframe and adapt. We may have many different plans during our life, all aligned with the moment we are in. We all have our individual stories and they can be very singular and hard to imagine. Maybe this is what makes us so special and unique. Maybe this is what makes life such an amazing journey after all.
You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.― Mae West
Filed Under: Power Tools
Tagged With: coach france, gabriela sanz, leadership coach