Nature: A great teacher in adaptability

There are so many examples of how things we see in nature, specifically plants and animals, adapt to their environment so that they may survive. Trees lose their leaves in the fall so that their branches are not as heavy when the winter snows and ice storms arrive. Trees then sprout new leaves and blossom in the hot summer, which provides shade.

A chameleon will change colors when it feels threatened and can also make itself flat and dark so it can absorb more heat.

But what got me really thinking about this concept is my dog, Patches. Patches, (randomly named by my son after Patches O’Houlihan from Dodge Ball), is a Basenji, which is a breed of hunting dog originating in central Africa. Because they are from the hot climate in Africa, they have a short-haired coat and they are typically lean, very muscular and athletic.

A little more than three years ago, we moved from Texas to the Seattle area and our first winter here something happened to Patches. Her coat fluffed up and let’s say she “bulked up for winter” with an extra layer of fat.  – Check out the picture here – notice that neck roll and at her shoulder area! – Obviously, it’s colder here and she naturally adapted to her environment so she could stay warm … and cuddly, I might add!

I think it’s fascinating how things work naturally – usually for our benefit – if we pay attention to our surroundings, are flexible, open to new ideas and are willing to make changes to adapt to our environment. That adaptability can be the key to our survival and we may even thrive due to the changes we are willing to make. Here are a few items I have on my Adaptability Checklist:

  • Pay attention! Don’t get stuck in a rut with your head in the sand. Take notice of what’s going on in your environment, how other’s are behaving and observe those that are thriving. What are they doing that you may not be doing?
  • Be curious. Ask questions to understand what drivers are at play in a changing environment. It takes energy, so do things to help you recharge to maintain that energy.
  • Keep an open mind. Don’t fall into the status quo trap. Continuously look for new ideas/approaches and truly consider them before dismissing them at face value.
  • Be flexible. Your willingness to try something new or allow others to try something new can go a long way in building confidence, learning agility and can often foster relationships.

I’ll leave you with this fun fact – a sick chameleon will stay pale because it doesn’t have the energy to change color … that’s when they are very vulnerable and can get attacked. More evidence that not being adaptable could cost you dearly!

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults and can be found on Twitter @Mduesterhoft.