#7 Lifeskills - Flexibility

These lifeskills are based on an article in Psychology Today, “Lessons You Won’t Learn in School” by Jena Pincott. 

Do you prefer predictability and routine? Have you ever made a decision based on all the facts and then are smacked in the face with a detour, new information or news that everything changed? How frustrating that can be! For some it can be a very emotional and anxiety producing time. 

Have you ever gotten comfortable with a smart phone and then you either got a new version of the same phone or a drastic update? How about when you learned every keystroke to a computer program and then they came out with the 2.0 or 12.0 version and it looked completely different? Start yanking the hair out of your head! 

The older we get, the less flexible we become. I’m not talking about our spine (although that can be true also!) but in our brain. You may think, “Ugh WHY do they change everything?? What was wrong with the old way??” The younger you are the more resilient you may be to those changes. You may think, “Oooh cool - something new. Let me see how to figure this out!” 

Researchers have found that when we learn something, we can then become boxed in by that knowledge. New information, or new ways to do something, that rubs against what we already know can be harder to wrap our brains around. As we get older, our mental brain cells do not adapt as well. Those cells may prefer being efficient. Who doesn’t love being talented or an expert in an area? Beware of becoming stale and out of date. The good news is that “cognitive flexibility” can be learned if we are willing to exercise those little precious brain cells. 

I unexpectedly experienced a brain cell flexibility experiment just a few weeks ago on a rainy, cold winter day. What’s a fun thing to do on a day like that, besides napping? Netflix. Mari Kondo is the star of the latest wildly popular documentary on getting your home tidy and efficient. She is the cutest woman you’ve ever seen and she is a master at reducing clutter. 

I’ve been folding shirts and underwear for many years. Sadly. Mari showed her clients, that were falling apart under the weight of their messy houses, how to fold their underwear in a new, space saving way. I have heard from friends that they could care less about a new way to handle this drudgery! I was inspired on Mari’s intriguing folding “KonMari” method. It goes something like this - fold it this way, then that way, then another way and voila. What’s that? Huh? Was that an origami she made? Rewind!

I attempted this trickery. My husband came home and opened his underwear drawer and asked, “Why are my underwear arranged into little packets??” I experienced something new and fun that resulted in the best looking interior drawers you have ever seen. It “sparked joy in me” as Mari would say. 

So, truthfully, they may not be THE best interior drawers but they are better than they were. A warning about learning something new - do not assume you are going to do it once and become an expert. Psychologist Alison Gopnik said that “curiosity should prevail over mastery”. I had nothing to lose by trying out the KonMari method. What’s the worst that could have happened if my folding method went awry? I would have just thrown the underwear back in the drawer like I had been doing. They don’t even really get wrinkly in the drawer. I’ve never had to iron underwear. 

The inspiring part about learning this folding method was when I pressed on with my practicing and had about 10 pairs of shirts lined up in a drawer (in color coded fashion no less). I felt like how the employees at Victoria Secret must feel when they open those drawers with all of those bras lined up. Like a glorious champ! 

When you learn and try something new you may find yourself feeling good about yourself. That then sparks more energy that you can apply to another area of your life. It’s a pretty incredible feeling. 

Where are you feeling kind of stiff in your life? Where do you need a little stretching and an increase in your flexibility? Today might be your day to expand your thinking or your skills. You can do it!