The real world does not suffer those who can’t keep up—especially at work. There’s always something new to learn, new processes to master, and someone eager to take your spot if you’re not willing to excel at it. Surviving and thriving in just about any job requires you to not just be sharp, but also to be malleable. And it’s completely doable, so long as you raise your adaptability quotient (AQ).
“It’s the ability to learn, adjust, and change to new situations or circumstances and still come out a success,” says career coach Maggie Mistal. “Those with high AQ are able to be of service in a variety of situations and may even thrive in times of change.” A high adaptability quotient comes into play when there are new forms of technology put in place, a priority shift that changes your expected output and routine, a raise in expectations, or truly any other tweak you’re meant to handle in stride. (If you don’t know your AQ, try a free online assessment, like this one.)
And while the concept of an adaptability quotient is commonly applied in business-related situations, the measure offers value elsewhere in life, too. Being able to approach life as a cool-headed renaissance person will make all the curveballs thrown at you much easier to catch. So, what can you do if you have a particularly subterranean-level AQ? Like, maybe you’re an inflexible fixed sign, or you have a paralyzing fear of change. Simple: Take steps to bolster it.
Below, Mistal shares four tips anyone can take in order to better roll with the punches, Rocky Balboa-style.
1. Look out for ways to switch up your regular routine
“Seek or create opportunities for change,” Mistal says. Let’s say you’re terrified about any kind of change because, well, sticking to status quo is comfortable. That said, your performance at work is suffering, your mental health is suffering, and every day is slow torture. Your friends think you need a new job. That’s one option. Another is seeking out a new opportunity within the company, and yet another is exploring ways to inject your current situation with newness, like an initiative or project you’re excited about that you can spearhead.
Whatever change you find doesn’t have to be dramatic; it just needs to give you something fresh.
2. Train yourself to look at things differently
Making tweaks to the world around you will help relieve you of any stagnancy you’re feeling, and, on a visual level, it’ll help you to do something new. And again, it doesn’t have to be anything major.
“I worked with someone who would use different pen colors at different times so that his eyes got used to seeing things differently,” Mistal says. “He also regularly adjusted the furniture in his home so that he had to see things differently or develop a new routine to get things done. It was his way of preparing himself for change and developing his AQ.”
It’s also a great excuse to finally start that home renovation project you’ve been putting off for, oh, about ever.
3. Change up your environment
Another client of Mistal’s had a strong adaptability quotient regarding travel, and when he realized this, he was able to parlay it to a new career. “He’s even guiding a group in Mexico City this fall,” she says. “It’s his way of showing people that they can build their AQ through travel and fun experiences, too.”
This doesn’t mean that you have to go rogue and across the world. Rather, it just means if you have the ability to travel and you’ve been putting it off, now’s as good a time as ever to book that flight. On a smaller scale, it could mean breaking away from habit and deciding to not eat at the same restaurant you go to every. single. weekend. “It’s important not to get stuck in a rut and to exercise your adaptability muscles once in a while” Mistal says.
4. Find inspiration in people who live boldly
“Read quotes that inspire you to get out of your comfort zone,” Mistal says. “Take their messages to heart.” This tip, all my introvert pals, is one to highlight because it doesn’t even require you to leave the comfort of your home. Even hitting “follow” on the right kind of influencer could motivate you to dream and do bigger.
Anyway, if you need me, I’ll be to making a leather-bound book of Cher’s best one-liners.