Letting Everything Become Your Teacher – Lessons in Mindfulness – Part 2

Letting Everything Become Your Teacher – Lessons in Mindfulness
Extracts from bestselling author Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book ‘Full Catastrophe Living’
Part 2 – Self-discipline, conscious intention, basis instructions
For those who want to learn more about mindfulness

Mindfulness doesn’t just come about by itself because you have decided that it is a good idea to be more aware of things in the present moment, and less judgmental. Mindfulness is not merely a good idea. A strong commitment to nurturing yourself and mustering enough self-discipline to preserve in the process is essential to developing a strong meditation practice and a high degree of mindfulness. Self-discipline and regular practice are vital to developing the power of mindfulness.

The spirit of engaged commitment to meditation is like that required in athletic training. The athlete who is training for a particular event doesn’t practice only when he or she feels like it, for instance, only when the weather is nice or there are other people to keep him or her company or there is enough time to fit it in. the athlete trains regularly, every day, rain or shine, whether she feels good or not, whether the goal seems worth it or not on any particular day.

You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.

Our lives are so complex and our minds so busy and agitated most of the time that it is necessary, especially at the beginning, to protect and support your meditation practice by making a special time for it and, if possible, by making a special place in your home where you will feel particularly comfortable and “at home” while practicing. Just making this amount of time every day for yourself will be a very positive lifestyle change and gift to yourself.

This time for formal meditation practice needs to be protected from interruptions and from other commitments so that you can just be yourself without having to do or respond to anything. This is not always possible, but it is helpful if you can manage to set things up in this way.

One measure of your commitment is whether you can bring yourself to shut off your telephones for the time you will be practicing and let them take messages. It is a great letting go in and of itself only to be home for yourself at those times, and great peace can follow from this alone.

This is where conscious intentionally comes in, the intention to practice whether you feel like it or not on a particular day, whether it is convenient or not, with determination of an athlete, but for its own sake, because this moment is your life.

Mindfulness doesn’t just come about by itself.

Regular practice is not as hard as you might think once you make up your mind to do it and pick an appropriate time. Most people are inwardly disciplined already to a certain extent. Getting dinner on the table every night requires discipline. Getting up in the morning and going to work requires discipline. And taking time for yourself certainly does to.

Perhaps the ability to function more effectively under pressure or to be healthier and to feel better, or to be more relaxed and self-confident and happy, will suffice as reasons to take up meditation seriously. Ultimately you must decide for yourself why you are making such a commitment.

Happily, once people start practicing mindfulness, most quickly get over the idea that it is “selfish” and “narcissistic” to take time for themselves as they see the difference that making some time to just be has on the quality of their lives and their self-esteem, as well as on their relationships.

To get back in touch with being is not that difficult. We only need to remind ourselves to be mindful. Moments of mindfulness are moments of peace and stillness, even in the midst of activity. When your whole life is driven by doing, formal meditation practice can provide a refuge of sanity and stability that can be used to restore some balance and perspective. It can be a way of stopping the headlong momentum of all the doing and giving yourself some time to dwell in a state of deep relaxation and well-being and to remember who you are.

For one thing, we tend to have little awareness of the incessant and relentless activity of our own mind and how much we are driven by it. That is not too surprising, given that we hardly ever stop and observe the mind directly to see what it is up to.
Ironically, although we all “have” minds, we seem to need to “re-mind” ourselves of who we are from time to time. If we don’t, the momentum of all the doing just takes over and can have us living its agenda rather than our own, almost as if we were robots.

Given all the momentum behind our doing, getting ourselves to remember the preciousness of the present moment seems to require somewhat unusual and even drastic steps. This is why we make a special time each day for formal meditation practice. It is a way of stopping, a way of “re-minding” ourselves, of nourishing the domain of being for a change. It’s a way of “re-bodying” too.  In practising meditation, we don’t try to answer questions, rather we just observe the impulse to get up from the sitting, or to get caught in the thoughts that come into the mind.

Each time we become aware that the mind is off someplace else, that it has forgotten the present, we first note what is actually on our mind in that moment, whatever it is, and then we gently bring our attention back to our abdomen, back to the sensation of the rising and falling of our belly, no matter what carried it away. If the attention moves off the breath a hundred times, then we just calmly bring it back a hundred times, as soon as we are aware of not being in the present and where our mind has alighted.
By practising in this way, you are training your mind to be less reactive and more stable. You are making each moment count. You are taking each moment as it comes, not valuing any one above any other, in this way you are cultivating your natural ability to concentrate and calm your own mind.

By repeatedly bringing your attention back to the breath each time it wanders off, concentration builds and deepens, much as muscles develop by repetitively lifting weights, and by repeatedly noting. Without reaction, what is on your mind when it is carried off, you are developing greater awareness of the mind itself and insight into how self-distracting and emotionally turbulent it can be.

Mindfulness does not involve pushing thoughts away or walling yourself from them to quiet your mind. We are not trying to stop our thoughts as they cascade through the mind. We are simply making room for them, observing them as thoughts, and letting them be, using the breath as our anchor or ‘home base’ for observing, for reminding us to stay focused and calm.

When you feel connected to something, that connection immediately gives you a purpose for living.

Liberation comes not as we would like to be but accepting ourselves as we actually are.

Letting Everything Become Your Teacher – Lessons in Mindfulness

By Ida Soghomonian
Psychologist, The Resilience Centre

Extracts from bestselling author Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book ‘Full Catastrophe Living
Part 1 – Nonjudging, Patience and Beginner’s Mind
For those who want to learn about mindfulness

Whether you are trying to learn patience, cope with pain, deal with stress and challenges, improve your relationships or free yourself from destructive emotions, thoughts and behaviours, you must remind yourself that you have deep inner resources to draw upon, the most important of which is the present moment itself.

In part your vision will be moulded by your unique life circumstances, by your personal beliefs and values.  Another part will develop from your experiences, from letting everything become your teacher: your body, your attitudes, your mind, your pain, your joy, other people, our mistakes, your successes and nature.  This lifelong commitment to continual inquiry and a willingness to modify your perspective as you acquire new knowledge and arrive at a new level of understanding and insight.

Awareness requires only that we pay attention and see things as they are.  It doesn’t require that we change anything.  Healing requires receptivity and acceptance, a tuning to connectedness and wholeness.  None of this can be forced, just as you cannot force yourself to go to sleep.  You must create the right condition for falling asleep and then you can let go.  The same is true of mindfulness.

To cultivate the healing power of mindfulness requires much more than mechanically following a set of instructions.  It is only when the mind is open and receptive that learning and seeing and change can occur.  In practicing mindfulness, you will have to bring your whole being to the process.

Healing does not mean curing, although the two words are often used interchangeably.  While it may not be possible for us to cure ourselves or to find someone who can, it is possible for us to heal ourselves.  Healing implies the possibility for us to relate differently to illness, disability, even death, as we learn to see with eyes of wholeness.  Healing is coming to terms with things as they are.

Mindfulness is cultivated by assuming the stance of an impartial witness to your own experience.  To do this requires that you become aware of the constant stream of judging and reacting to inner and outer experiences that we are all normally caught up in and learn to step back from it.  When we begin practicing paying attention to the activity of our mind, it is common to discover and to be surprised by the fact that we are constantly generating judgements about our experience.

The habit of categorizing our experience locks us into mechanical reactions that we are not even aware of and that often have no objective basis at all.  These judgements tend to dominate our minds, making it difficult for us to find any peace within ourselves.

If we are to find a more effective way of handling the stress in our lives, the first thing we will need to do is to be aware of these automatic judgements so that we can see through our own prejudices and fears and liberate ourselves for their tyranny.

When practicing mindfulness, it is important to recognise this judging quality of mind when it appears and to intentionally assume the stance of an impartial witness by reminding yourself to just observe.  When you find the mind judging, you don’t have to stop it from doing that.  All that is required is to be aware of it happening.  No need to judge the judging and make matters even more complicated for yourself.

Patience is a form of wisdom.  It demonstrates that we understand and accept the fact that sometimes things must unfold in their own time.  We must cultivate patience toward our own minds and bodies when practicing mindfulness.  We intentionally remind ourselves that there is no need to be impatient with ourselves because we find the mind judging all the time.  Patience can be a particularly helpful quality to invoke when the mind is agitated.  It can help us accept this wondering tendency of the mind while reminding us that we don’t have to get caught up in its travels.  Practicing patience reminds us that we don’t have to fill up our moments with activity and with more thinking in order for them to be rich.  In fact it helps us to remember that quite the opposite is true.  To be patient is simply to be completely open to each moment, accepting it is its fullness, knowing that like a butterfly, things can unfold only in their own time.

The richness of present moment experience is the richness of life itself.  Too often we let our thinking and our beliefs about what we ‘know’ prevent us from seeing things as they really are.  We tend to take the ordinary for granted and fail to grasp the extraordinariness of the ordinary.  To see the richness of the present moment, we need to cultivate what has been called ‘beginner’s mind’, a mind that is willing to see everything as if for the first time.  An open ‘beginner’s mind’ allows us to be receptive to new possibilities and prevents us from getting stuck in the rut of our own expertise, which often thinks it knows more than it does.

No moment is the same as any other.  Each is unique and contains unique possibilities, beginner’s mind reminds us of this simple truth.  The next time you see somebody who is familiar to you, ask yourself if you are seeing this person with fresh eyes, as he or she really is, or if you are seeing only the reflection of your own thoughts about this person.

It is impossible to become like somebody else.  Your only hope is to become more fully yourself.  Ultimately you must live your own life, every moment of it.  In practicing mindfulness, you are practicing taking responsibility for yourself and learning to listen and trust your own being.  The more you cultivate this trust in your own being, the easier you will find it will be to trust other people more and to see their goodness as well.

Just keep practicing…


Effective Communication and Value Alignment in Effective Relationships

Effective communication is essential for a relationship to grow & function successfully. Being a good communicator requires effective listening & understanding. Clear communication requires our words, tone of voice & body language to be congruent & reflect the true meaning of our message. Communication is comprised of three key components:
- Words make up only 15% of a message
- Tone of voice makes up 35% of a message
- Body language makes up 50 % of a message

Communication is the conveying of thoughts, feelings, opinions, ideas and information. It is the means of sending messages to one another. Effective communication depends on the clarity and delivery success, as well as how it’s received and understood.

Categories of communication:

1. Information Exchange
 Imparting & gathering information
 Matter of fact & straightforward talking
2. Persuasive Communication
 Trying to convince someone to change their mind or move their position
 Marked by passion, emotion & persistence
3. Motivational Communication
 Motivating someone to get involved, work harder or care more
 Marked by emotion & animation (but not trying to change their mind)
4. Problem-Solving Communication
 Facing a problem or crisis & approaching it as a team
5. Connection Communication
 Connecting or relating to someone in a meaningful & emotional way.

Key points in effective communication:
‘The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said’
– Peter Drucker

• Be AWARE of the other person’s feelings
• RESPECT the other person’s point of view
• Be CONFIDENT about what you are saying
• COMMIT to your point of view
• IDENTIFY the main issues at hand
• FOCUS on one point at a time
• Be HONEST in your approach
• Conclude the communication session with HARMONY
• Never compromise your INTEGRITY just to win an argument
• Trust & follow your INTUITION
• Don’t be judgemental, but rather UNDERSTANDING
• Seek first to UNDERSTAND then to be understood
• It is not only WHAT you say but HOW you say it
• Learn to LISTEN and listen to LEARN
• Say what you mean and MEAN what you say
• Agree to disagree
• Do not constantly remind the other person of past mistakes
• Only argue over things that matter
• Use HUMOUR in your communication
• Speak only 2 sentences at a time & KEEP IT SHORT

Effective relationship habits:

• Be Proactive
 Become an agent of positive change in your relationship
 Make more deposits into the ‘emotional bank account’ than withdrawals
• Prioritise
 Put first things first and make your relationship a priority
 Ensure that the infrastructure of your relationship is solid
• Establish meaningful rituals & traditions
 Create a sense of security & peace in your relationship
 Establish set boundaries
 Promote rhythm in your relationship
• Think ‘Win-Win’
 Move from ‘me’ to ‘we’
 Come up with solutions which are mutually beneficial
 Solve problems through empathic communication
 Get on the same page
• Synergise
 Build unity through valuing & celebrating differences
 Creative team work & cooperation

Effective listening skills:
‘When people talk, listen completely’
– Ernest Hemingway

• Listening unblocks hearing
• Attend when listening
• Be aware of body language
• Recognise how emotions effect listening & responding
• Use open body position
• Maintain eye contact during the entire conversation
• Do not interrupt
• Remember the purpose of listening
• Encourage them to tell you how they feel
• Use door openers & acknowledgements
• Reflect back facts & feelings

Characteristics of effective relationships:                                                               ‘The relationship is the communication bridge between people’
– Alfred Kadushin

• Being perceived by the other person as trustworthy, dependable & consistent
• Being expressive enough as a person to communicate unambiguously
• Experience positive attitudes (e.g. warmth, caring, liking, interest, respect) towards the other person
• Being strong enough as a person when separated from the other person
• Being secure enough within oneself to permit the other person’s separateness
• See & feel the world as the other person does
• Accept each facet of the other person as presented by them
• Act with sufficient sensitivity in the relationship
• Keep the relationship free of judgements and evaluation
• Meet the other person as an individual who is in the process of becoming
• Do not be bound by the past.

Values:                                                                                                                           ‘It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are’
– Roy Disney

• Values are aspects that really matter to each of us
• Values are subjective ideas and beliefs we hold as special
• Personal Values provide an internal reference for what is good, beneficial, important, useful, beautiful, desirable, constructive, etc.
• Our values are learnt at home, at school, in the community, at Church, from family, friends & peers
• We all have different set of values
• Values are formed during three significant periods:
1. Imprint period from birth to 7 years
2. Modelling period from 8 –13 years
3. Socialization period from 13 –21 years
• Types of Values include:
 – Ethical/moral
 – Doctrinal/ideological
 – Social
 – Cultural
 – Aesthetic

Value alignment for effective relationships:     

  • Define personal & relationship/family values
  • Recognising values provide answers to questions of why we do what we do and in what order we choose to do them
  • Recognise value collisions
  • Most conflicts in relationships is due to clashes of personal values.
  • We resist & resent attempts by others to impose their values on us
  • Resolve value collisions
  • Some values get changed as a result of new information & knowledge, new experiences & the influence of people we admire & respect
  • Agree to differ while you respect and celebrate each other’s values


Work-Life Balance

‘Work–life’ balance (or ‘life-work’ balance as some prefer to call it) is a concept referring to effective prioritising between ‘work’ (career and ambition) and ‘lifestyle’ (health, pleasure, leisure, family, friends and spiritual development). The expression ‘work–life balance’ was first used in the United Kingdom in the late 1970’s to describe the balance between an individual’s work and personal life.

The idea of work-life balance can be misleading because it seems to imply that work and life are opposites. As work is an important part of life, if it is meaningful and enjoyable it can create a sense of wellbeing and contribute to good mental health. Work creates financial support for the important things, but taken to the extreme can deplete our lives and lead to stress and burnout.

According to a recent study by The Australian Institute, the balance between work and life is deteriorating for four in 10 people. While it’s true that stresses and demands from personal life can interfere with work, in our society work is the main culprit that’s pushing us out of balance.

A good work-life balance means creating harmony between different aspects of life, where benefits gained from each area can support and strengthen the others. Work-life integration is a new concept, where many people are learning to blend their work and personal lives successfully.

Prioritising between our work and personal life can be a challenge. However studies have found many risks linked with an unbalanced work and home life, including: unhappiness, reduced physical and mental health, burn out, unresolved conflict, poor performance and financial loss.

Adding to the pressure, portable electronic devices have obliterated the line between work and home as workers seem to be available to their co-workers, clients and customers around the clock.

The combination of increased workloads with technology that keeps us constantly connected to our jobs leads to an increasing number of workers feeling overwhelmed, discouraged and depleted.

In contrast, numerous studies have shown the most productive employees are well-rounded professionals with full and well-balanced lives, both in and out of the workplace. Likewise, the most successful companies are those that foster employee health and well-being while enhancing organizational performance and productivity.

Achieving a healthy work-life balance requires managing our professional and personal life in sustainable ways that keep our energy flowing, our minds and bodies healthy and our whole selves happy and content. Benefits of effective work-life balance include: sense of fulfilment, improved physical and mental health, greater productivity, stronger relationships.

Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices. It means giving due attention to all of the things that enrich and fulfil us including work and career, health and fitness, family and relationships, spirituality, community service, hobbies and passions, intellectual stimulation, rest and recreation.

Strategies to Achieving Work-Life Balance

  1. Review your present situation                                                                             Keep a time log of everything you do for one week, including work-related and personal activities. Construct a pie chart by allocating time spent on each component of your life.Ask yourself: What am I doing now? What do I need to: Start doing? Stop doing? Continue doing? Do more of? Do less of? Do differently?
  2. Define your priorities                                                                                         Reflect on what is most important to you, and make a list of your priorities at work and at home.Take your list of priorities and turn them into concrete and specific measurable goals.
  3. Schedule meticulously                                                                                             Set aside 15 minutes at the beginning or end of each day to plan your tasks and events for the next day. Keep a diary to record all your appointments, also including leisure activities.
  4. Establish boundaries                                                                                               Set fair and realistic limits on what you will and will not do both at work and at home. Set aside a time at home during which put away electronic devices and not check or respond to work-related matters.
  5. Monitor what you put in your body                                                                       Your health should always be your No. 1 priority. If you are not in good shape physically, mentally, and emotionally, both your work and your personal life will suffer. Take care of yourself by eating healthy meals and minimizing alcohol and caffeine intake.
  6. Exercise                                                                                                          Exercising helps relieve stress, raises energy levels and increases stamina. Schedule in at least three sessions of exercise per week. Meditation can also be incorporated in your exercise routine.
  7. Sleep                                                                                                                 Sleeping seven to nine hours per night helps reduce stress, strengthens our immune system and improves mental clarity.
  8. Nurture your family and other relationships                                                      Spend more time with individuals who are a positive influence in your life. Healthy personal relationships stimulate our comfort level and sense of belonging, while promoting hope.
  9. Make time for you                                                                                                        It is important to schedule time for your own renewal. Indulge in some daily pleasure. Take at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted “me time.”
  10. Spirituality                                                                                                        Connect with your spiritual source. Belief in God, or a higher power, can be a deep well from which to draw inspiration, guidance, and strength.
  11. Leave work at work                                                                                           Develop a mental on-off switch between work and home. It helps to establish a transitional activity between the two realms. This might consist of listening to music or podcasts during your commute, exercising, deep breathing, running errands.
  12. Consider flexible Options                                                                                        Many forward-thinking companies are creating policies and programs that facilitate work-life balance. Find out what options your business offers in terms of flex hours, working from home, a compressed work week, job-sharing, or part-time employment.
  13. Manage time effectively                                                                                          Limit time wasting activities and people who don’t add value to your life. Using time more efficiently can cut stress and save you up to an hour a day.
  14. Learn to say ‘NO’                                                                                                     You have the right to exercise choice.                                                             Remember that ‘NO’ is only a two letter word.
  15. Ask for help                                                                                                                  If you are overwhelmed or stressed, don’t suffer in silence and ask for professional help.
  16. Start with small steps                                                                                            Don’t get overwhelmed by assuming that you need to make big changes all at once. Start with implementing a few strategies, they will have a positive and measurable impact in your life.

Keep in mind that work-life balance isn’t an exact science. Each of us must find our own way of combining career, relationships, and personal care into an integrated whole. What is right for you now will likely change as new circumstances arise, so periodically review your situation and adjust accordingly.

The process of achieving a healthy work-life balance takes determined effort to implement positive change and a continued effort to stay that way. However those who commit themselves to this quest reap enormous health and quality-of-life benefits.

It is definitely possible to have a successful professional career and a fulfilling personal life. Take control of your work. Be proactive with your time, hence achieving work-life balance.

Positive Transition to High School – Supporting Adolescents to Cope & Thrive

 Ida Soghomonian MA DCH JP

Moving from primary school to high school is a significant event in every child’s education journey.

There is no doubt high school takes some adjustment, and preparation is the key to a successful transition for your child.

High school is a wonderful place for your child to make new friends, learn new skills and eventually make important decisions about their career and future – they will enjoy it once they feel comfortable in their environment.

Most students move to their new schools and thrive on the challenges of the new environment and varied experiences that high school offers. They find it both exciting and scary to be going from being the oldest group in the school to the youngest; to be moving from a familiar environment to a larger and unfamiliar environment; and from being well known by many teachers to being relatively unknown.

For some students, however, it is a challenge to leave the security of their primary school. They can possibly lose their connection with school and learning at this time. That is why it is vitally important for not only educators but also parents to make the transition a positive experience. It essential to cultivate connectedness to school and their sense of belonging to their new environment.

In order to help children cope better and thrive, I have highlighted some key points as a guideline for smoother transition.

Parental Proactivity

  • Familiarise yourself with the school’s teaching and learning program
  • Communicate with the school
  • Project positive attitude about school to your child
  • Be involved in the school community
  • Be informed
  • Prepare for the year
  • Effective communication with your child
  • Set Boundaries
  • Establish support structures
  • Recognise signs of stress before it leads to distress

Supporting Positive Transition

  • Be interested and enthusiastic about their move to high school
  • Make sure travel arrangements to and from school are organised
  • Discuss the changes every student will experience
  • Organise your child’s uniform, books & stationary before school starts
  • Learn about school routines, timetables & homework expectations
  • Help your child to develop good study habits
  • Encourage organisational skills
  • Discuss emergency and safety issues
  • Encourage new friendship building
  • Do not start talking about HSC & ATAR from year 7

Resilience Building

  • Establish meaningful engagement with your child
  • Love, accept & respect your child for who they are
  • Recognise & focus on strengths
  • Build on what your child is already good at
  • Encourage uniqueness
  • Have realistic expectations
  • Promote sense of self
  • Support choices
  • Cultivate optimistic thinking
  • Provide constructive feedback (instead of negative criticism)
  • Create a safe and stress free haven for your child

Learning to handle disappointments

  • Set realistic goals
  • Let them make their own mistakes
  • Teach them to respect other people’s space & privacy
  • Talk to your child about:
    • The importance of words in problem solving
    • It’s not always about winning, but how the game is played
    • It’s not about always getting the best mark, but how hard they tried
    • It’s not about being the most popular, but true friendships
    • Not coming first isn’t the end of the world
    • Social skills is just as important as academic performance
    • This stage of their life will also pass

Supporting Academic Performance

  • Encourage Effective study skills
  • Timetabling
  • Assess expectations
  • Encourage realistic goal setting
  • External tutoring reduction – not hot housing
  • Not exerting excessive pressure to perform
  • Look at whole-child
  • Maintaining balance
  • Be aware of & discuss cyber safety
  • Monitoring use of social media & gaming
  • Encourage adequate sleep (8-9 hours a night) to rest the mind and recharge

Tips for Students Starting High School

  • Be on time & organised – use a diary
  • Ask for help if you need something or are unsure
  • Make an effort to make new friends but choose wisely
  • Speak up & ask questions in class
  • Become familiar with the school layout
  • Get to know your timetable
  • Set up a home study area
  • Remember books, sports gear and instruments
  • Have a proper lunch & lots of water
  • Get involved in extracurricular school activities
  • Volunteer for leadership opportunities
  • First impressions count – project good behaviour & presentation

Take away points for reflection

  • Is your child functioning effectively in an age appropriate manner?               Routines, boundaries, responsibilities, interactions
  • What are your child’s strengths?                                                                              Build on these to make your child even stronger
  • Is your child primed to thrive?                                                                             Positive mindset, locus of control, self-esteem, motivation
  • Beyond HSC as they enter the real world what survival tools are they equipped with?                                                                                                                           Critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, creativity, self-control, resilience



By Ida Soghomonian (Psychologist)

“It is not the strongest species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin

The origin of the word ‘adaptable’ dates back to 1790-1800, meaning ‘to be able to adapt oneself readily to different conditions’.

Every individual has the basic innate capability to be adaptable – without this we would not be able to survive and function in the world. However how many of us do in fact adapt enough to function, cope and more importantly thrive? Who has the ability to prioritize, improvise, compromise, keep an open mind, face challenges without giving up, keep calm and persist in adverse situations? The answer is a resilient and adaptable individual.

Adaptability is the ability to adjust your approach or actions in response to changes in your external environment. It is a valuable skill for individuals. Our circumstances force us to evaluate or reinvent perspectives in our life, actions, and the choices that we’ve made. Sometimes these evaluations or reinventions are done by choice while other times they are forced upon us. Regardless, these changes can often be difficult.

Strategic adaptability is a planned ability to react effectively when business and environmental factors change unexpectedly. Many companies do a good job planning how to operate when things work out as expected. Companies that survive in the long run often plan for flexibility in response to the unexpected. On an individual level, a contingency plan and the awareness and forward thinking that we might be required to reevaluate, adjust and fine tune our approach prepares us for a better adaptation period.

Adaptability is the ability of a system to adapt itself efficiently and fast to changed circumstances. An adaptive system is therefore an open system that is able to fit its behavior according to changes in its environment or in parts of the system itself. That is why a requirement to recognize the demand for change without any other factors involved can be expressed.

Adaptability can include the degree to which adjustments are possible in behaviours, practices and processes. Adaptation can be planned or spontaneous, carried out is response to or in anticipation of changes.

Adaptation often requires you to stop following the status quo, to get out of your comfort zone, or to break routines. Our individual comfort zone helps us to decrease stress, reduce anxiety, and keeps us from taking risks. We need our comfort zone to go to every once in a while, however if we want to continually grow, challenge ourselves, we need to tolerate the discomfort and embrace the uncertainty that comes with stepping out of our comfort zone to be able to adapt to the changes that are necessary to excel.

Our ability to adapt to these situations and become comfortable with the ever-changing circumstances in our life influence our happiness, health, stress and general well-being.

Adaptability has many enemies, the main culprit being fear – fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of failing, fear of disappointment. Other enemies include lack of diversity, bias, habit, conditioning, stuckness, skill deficiency, short term and rigid thinking.

In their book ‘Super Brain’ Deepak Chopra and Rudolph E. Tanzi refer to the great physician Albert Einstein as a hero of super brain, as he challenged his own comfort zone, and the ideologies of his peers, went against the grain and stood firm on what he believed, which was quite different to the status quo. He used his brain in a way that any person can learn. They highlight that the key is adaptability. Einstein adapted by facing the unknown and conquering it – his theory of relativity and radical equations propelled him to be one of the most famous and admired individuals in history.

When you see a new problem, you can solve it in old ways o in a new way. The first is the easier path to follow, but one which will not get you the desired results. Instead of remaining stuck in old behaviours, which are wired in the brain, you can use your brain in the following, more effective ways for better results:

How to be Adaptable

  • Stop repeating what never worked in the first place
  • Stand back and ask for a new solution
  • Stop struggling at the level of the problem – the answer never lies there
  • Work on your own stuckness.  Don’t worry about the other person
  • When the old stresses are triggered, walk away
  • See righteous anger for what it really is – destructive anger dressed up to sound positive
  • Rebuild the bonds that have become frayed
  • Take on more of the burden that you think you deserve
  • Stop attaching so much weight to being right.  In the grand scheme of things, being right is insignificant compared with being happy

Chopra and Tanzi (2013) emphasise that taking these steps creates a space so that your brain can change. Nursing a negative emotion is the surest way to block positive emotions.

You are becoming more adaptable when

  • You can laugh at yourself
  • You see that there’s more to the situation than you realise
  • Other people no longer look like antagonists simply because they disagree with you
  • Negotiating starts to work, and you genuinely participate in it
  • Compromise becomes a positive word
  • You can hang loose in a state of relaxed alertness
  • You see things in a way you didn’t before, and this delights you

If you want to achieve success in any field, including your own optimum wellbeing and fullfilment, maximize your brain’s ability to adapt.


Chopra D.; Tanzi R.E. (2013) Super Brian – Unleash the Explosive Power of Your Mind. The Random House Group Limited.


Famous quotes on adaptability

“All fixed set patters and incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns.” – Bruce Lee

“When you can’t change the direction of the wind adjust your sails.” – H. Jackson Brown

“Adaptability is being able to adjust to any situation at any given time.” – John Wooden

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” – Maria Robinson

“Adaptability is not imitation. It means power of resistance and assimilation.”                   – Mahatma Ghandhi

“Adaptability is about the powerful difference between adapting to cope and adapting to win.” – Max McKeown

“All living things contain a measure of madness that moves them in strange, sometimes inexplicable ways. This madness can be saving; it is part and parcel of the ability to adapt. Without it, no species would survive.” – Yann Martel, Life of Pi

The Art of Storytelling

                                          The Art of Storytelling                                   

What is your story?  Everyone has a story, all 7 billion of us today, and billions more who have already walked and left this earth.

While storytelling has been a pivotal form of communication since the beginning of time, it is only in the last few decades that it has been pinned as an ‘art’.  Cavemen, clans and tribes spent hours around campfires hearing stories from elders recounting daily happenings, community news and generational traditions, as a way of passing down invaluable information about their culture and heritage.  Storytelling included moral lessons, legends, rituals and myths as part of their legacy for the longevity of generations to come. 

How would we have learned about religion, moral beliefs, values and customs had it not been for the quintessential storytelling communicated in the Bible, Quran, Torah, Vedas and Tripitaka? How would we have known about life in ancient Egypt had the story not been depicted laboriously through Hieroglyphics?  Or the incredible stories of Indigenous communities through unique Dreamtime Stories of the Aboriginal culture?

Storytelling is not only recounted and passed on with spoken word, but also via other communication mediums, including drawings, paintings, visual and sign language, written, print and digital space.  It is used in a personal and professional context, as an educational, persuasive and therapeutic tool.  The application style and modality highly depends on the desired outcome, and how the individual wishes to differentiate themselves from others in order to highlight their individuality.

The commonality in all forms are the importance of authenticity, honesty, establishing credibility, engagement and emotional connection with the recipient of the story.  Stories influence people; stories connect generations; stories create a sense of belonging to a universal force.  Personal stories are unique and the telling inspires a courageous journey to self-discovery. 

Our story is the unique footprint of who we are, where we have come from, how others in our lives have contributed to shaping us, and most importantly how we have taken the resources made available to us to make relevant choices to the best of our ability.  The choices we make, the outcomes they bring forth and the effect it has on our life will then become a permanent part of the repertoire of the next generation.  A story is about inspiring change as we set the scene, stimulate a sense of wonder and create an atmosphere for the recipient to care and therefore learn from. 

There is a natural storytelling need in each of us.  The nurturing of this intrinsic impulse can bring about self-actualisation with positive results.  Storytelling can be a valuable therapeutic tool, as it gives us a courageous voice, taps on to the now, shines clarity on our past and current life, and enhances optimism to plan for a desired future.  It provides an opportunity to look inside ourselves, giving us the permission to express values we feel deep down in our core and validate our existing resilience.

Our motivation is powered by what we know and what we have experienced, as we draw strength from pain and adversity, celebrate joy and success.  The true path of self-development and envisaging a desired future can have an extremely enlightening and healing effect.  Navigating through the complex dark jungles of our mind and coming into the bright pasture of hope promotes an incredibly empowering sense of well-being and freedom.

What is your unique story?  Trust your intuition and start telling it today.  It’s not just art, it’s your gift to future generations.

Ida Soghomonian

One in seven billion, Uniquely Me…