We all have stressful experiences and moments of uncertainty. Just this week, I accidently left my briefcase (satchel) on the overhead rack on a train. No doubt, for the passengers who stayed on the train after I departed, it must have been stressful for them too, seeing an unattended bag with no obvious owner.
When we experience stress, having ‘coping reserves’ of patience & energy, as well as listening to our inner voice that is encouraging us to persevere and not panic, can help. Those are all intangible forms of coping reserves.
What about more tangible reserves to help us cope? If we choose to develop various reserves of personal flexibility, ones we can see, such as a duplicate wallet, a large bank balance, a credit card, a house key hidden in the garden (in case we lock ourselves out side by mistake), a car that we can drive to work should the train system fail, a few valuables we can sell if we have to, a trusted set of friends, they can all be an important way to cope too.
Personal flexibility (PFL) isn’t generally a product you can buy at the local store. Instead, it’s a form of strength you hold. Some people pay good money to do weight training at the gym. They are essentially buying an exercise programme that leads to strength and fitness. With that strength helping them weather uncertainty, look good and feel better about themselves. Other people pay for professional therapy to improve their emotional strength. Political lobbyists essentially win or buy influence from politicians. Some people upskill and pay for advanced education, to improve their chances of future employment, professional success and promotion. In summary, PFL is valuable as a means to an end.
Can personal flexibility help us in other ways too? We can be happy on the surface, if we never challenge ourselves, or take a risk. To be happy beneath the surface likely involves moving out of our comfort zone. Taking some calculated risks. Accepting that we may stumble. And that we may have to do the equivalent of kissing a few frogs to find a prince. What goes with that more colourful life journey, is success defined in our own terms. In other words, to become happy beneath the surface, we may have to redefine what happiness is, including;
- being happy about simple things,
- being happy about small, incremental victories,
- being happy for other people,
- the journey making us happy, not just the destination making us happy.
If other people’s inflexibility makes us annoyed or unhappy, can we counter that with our own flexibility instead? One way is having enough PFL to avoid their inflexibility. Another is to use our PFL to moderate their inflexibility. A simple example is where various companies use crowd management techniques– making us wait in lines or queues for something. Corralling us is their inflexibility to cope, translating into inflexibility for us on our speed and direction. We can moderate this by using our waiting time constructively – using our smartphone to research or learn something while we wait.
A final thought. What would our lives be like if, each day we tried to actively manage our reserves of personal flexibility? It would likely involve monitoring which bits we are losing (or cashing in) and actively finding replacement forms of PFL, for those PFL things lost.
With growing PFL, we may feel happier and more confident. Better able to cope with uncertainty. And more able to grow as people. What do you think?