In New Situations, Don’t Fall Back on Old Habits…

In unfamiliar, high-stakes situations, you’re hard-wired to default to the solutions you’ve relied on in the past. But challenging times are when you need to learn, change, and adapt the most. Overcoming this “adaptability paradox” is all about acting with intention, creativity, and objectivity.

Start by practicing learning agility: learning from experience, experimenting with new tactics, approaching new situations with a growth mindset, seeking feedback, and applying these lessons to new situations in real-time.

Next, practice emotional regulation: the ability to recognize, understand, and manage your emotions—and to channel them into productive behaviors. To develop this emotional intelligence, you might keep a diary of moments when you feel emotionally triggered and describe the thoughts and bodily sensations you experienced and actions you took in those situations.

Finally, practice dual awareness: consider both the internal circumstances (experiences, thoughts, emotions, and responses) and the external ones (an objective reading of the situation and what it calls for) simultaneously. By pausing to take stock of both yourself and the situation, you will better understand not only your true feelings, motivations, and intentions, but also what the situation demands—and how your habits and tendencies can serve you in the moment.

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