Future proof your career. Develop psychological flexibility

How to Future Proof your Career-Psychological Flexibility

The fourth industrial revolution has skyrocketed the changes we see in jobs and careers. This used to feel far away, but the pandemic has also made it a reality for most of us. 

If we can’t plan for the future disruption, what can we predict? 

We can predict CHANGE and UNCERTAINTY. 

Change is hard, especially forced change. The good news is: knowing change is inevitable, allows you to do something about it. There are some practical strategies to future proof your career. Now is the time to future proof your career

Make ‘change’ your friend. To future proof your career, you need to work with change. See change as the tides of the ocean, you can’t control it but you can harness it. Then, the same wave of change that intimidates you can be the wave you learn to surf.

Your repertoire enables you to deal with change. Repertoire is like the supply of skills you have. This includes your mental and behavioural skills. You want to make sure that you always take stock of the skills to meet your career demands. Just like any business needs to know what is going on in their industry, you need to make sure you have the right stock of skills to meet the market. 

There are some practical mental habits and actions you can do today to future proof your career. One of these skills is psychological flexibility. 

Psychological Flexibility

Mental flexibility or psychological flexibility helps you recognize and adapt to various situational demands. Not only does psychological flexibility help you adapt, but it is also good for your mental health. 

The mental habits of psychological flexibility increases your ability to meet the demands you are facing. Psychological flexibility is the ability to interact with your own thoughts, feelings, emotions and the environment in such a way that it helps move forward in the direction important to you. To be more technical, psychological flexibility is:

The capacity to contact the present moment, while being aware of thoughts and emotions without trying to change or be controlled by them. Then depending on the situation, persisting or changing your behaviour in the pursuit of values and goals.


The three core skills of psychological flexibility are: contact with the present moment, emotional openness and knowing what matters. 

In whatever career you are, it is important to have a flexible relationship with your inner world. You want to interact with your thoughts and feelings in such a way that it helps you work around any mental obstacles that are keeping you stuck and doing what you need to get done. 

Contact with the present moment

We often get so caught in the future and past. Our mind wanders about 50% of the time. Living in the future or the past makes us miss what is going on around us. 

If you live a more present life, your chances increase to read the opportunities and situations on your path. You provide yourself with more mental space to read your situation and take action. 

Here are three great resources to become more mindful and have more contact with the present moment.

Emotional Openness

Inevitably, you will have uncomfortable experiences. The sources of the discomfort can be the situation you are in or can be in your own inner world (thoughts, feelings and memories). Most often we try to control these uncomfortable experiences by doing the DAT’s (Distract, Avoid, Time Travel)
 

Distracting

When something uncomfortable rises in our mind or body we often use tactics to distract us from the discomfort. This takes the discomfort away temporarily, but not permanently.
 
Strategies to distract ourselves can include picking up your phone, mindlessly watching YouTube, rearranging the bookshelf for the 7th time. Can you think of a situation?
 

Avoiding 

We try to avoid the situation or thought causes an uncomfortable experience. For instance, if you need to make an uncomfortable call, you delay or don’t pick up the phone. 
 

Time Traveling

Our mind will run to the past or the future. This is a superpower in certain situations and a pitfall in others. Our minds often use ‘should have’ and ‘what if’ thoughts. 
 
While we are trying to control these discomforts you get stuck in an endless struggle that does not improve your situation. It is like trying to get out of quicksand. The harder you try to get out the more trapped you become. Russ Harris eloquently names this ‘The Struggle Switch’:
 
 

By accepting and allowing room for these inner and outer discomforts we experience, we struggle less and live more. Knowing the sources of your DAT’s, being more present and doing uncomfortable stuff gives you more freedom. Now you have enough mental space to read your situation and take proactive steps towards what is important to you.

 

Here are some practical strategies you can use to be more open to your emotions.
 

Connect with what is important to you

Developing flexibility and doing what is important to you goes hand in hand. You want to help create the mental space to do what is important. 
Ask yourself:
  • If my career is a platform, what do I want it to give me more of? 
  • What are my deepest desires that my career can help me move closer to?
Sometimes we get so caught up in survival mode that we forget to take some perspective. 
 
For instance, many people want a bigger salary, so they can have more adventures. But when they are on holiday they do everything but have an adventure. Here, the salary was just a platform to have an adventure. Adventure is a value that you can always live out in the present moment. 
 
USE YOUR CAREER AS A PLATFORM TO CONNECT WITH WHAT YOU VALUE
 
Often we become disconnected with what we value. Connecting with what is important to you, allows you to be proactive. If adventure is important to you, you then have the flexibility to find various ways to practice it. Now you can commit to the important stuff. 
 
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