The value of being flexible

Behavioral flexibility allows you to adapt your behaviors to achieve your goals.

Life is a dynamic and complex system. Think about all of the choices you make every day, all of the situations you face, the problems you solve. Even a “simple” life is extremely complex.

Most of us go through life without fully realizing just how complex our lives really are. Sure, we all feel stressed out or stretched to the limit sometimes, but for the most part we do not really understand just how complex our day to day existence really is. And that is a good thing. If we really paid attention to all of the stressors in our daily lives we would go insane.

So what does all of that have to do with being flexible?

One of the presuppositions of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is that the most flexible part of the system controls the system. This idea was first introduced by William Ashby, a psychiatrist and pioneer of the study of complex systems.

In his studies, Ashby suggested that only variety can destroy variety. So the way to limit variety of outcomes in a complex system, you have to maximize variety. Sounds confusing, but the basic conclusion is that the more variety you have within a complex system, the more stable the system is. Ashby called this the Law of Requisite Variety.

When you consider that life can be viewed as an extremely complex system, it is logical to assume that the more flexible you are in your behaviors and reactions to life’s challenges, the more likely you are to be able to manage them and get the best outcomes.

What is behavioral flexibility?

Behavioral flexibility is about being able to change your behaviors in ways that help you meet your goals. For many people this is very hard to do, either because they do not know what kind of behaviors they need to adopt to meet a goal, or because their belief systems are so rigid they simply cannot accept the need to change their behaviors.

Fortunately, with work both of these challenges can be overcome. Through changing or relaxing the rigidity of your beliefs, focusing on developing well formed outcomes, finding a mentor, or emulating someone who is successful in areas where you want to be successful, you can develop a high level of behavioral flexibility.

When you do so, you will have more choices on how to manage life’s challenges and will be more effective in achieving your goals.

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