Backpacker’s Guide Education

Question of adaptability

Be prepared: Always   | Photo Credit: Angel Getan

I am sitting in a small apartment in a West European town and in the past half hour have seen the sky go from grey to cloudy blue to rainy to rainbow-sunny. So, I’ve gone from packing and unpacking, alternatively, a scarf, gloves, hat, and umbrella. I don’t want my bag to get too heavy but I do want to be prepared for what seems like a temperamental day.

Have the mindset

One of the key skills in what is touted as the “21st century toolkit” is adaptability. It’s a word that can mean flexibility, open-mindedness, resilience, or responsiveness. It is of course all those things and more. It is broadly, the ability to work with and within changing circumstances in a manner that makes best use of both individual and contextual resources. It’s a level of preparation (carry that umbrella, layer your clothing, pack some food, make sure your phone is fully charged) and it is a mindset that anticipates and accepts that things may not turn as you expect.

It’s almost a cliché to say that we live in a world that is rapidly changing, where we are faced with circumstances that are unprecedented and require innovative responses for which history does not offer too many lessons. That’s at the macro level — issues of climate change, automation, resource depletion, and so on — for which much of what goes into adaptability happens at a systemic level (policies, frameworks, plans). But at the micro, or individual level too, we need to think about how we can build an attitude and practice adaptability.

This is a discussion that can span many pages, but for now, let me focus just on how we might cultivate adaptability on those two levels I mentioned above — preparation and mindset. The example I began with, about being prepared for variable weather, can be applied to many other situations. Think about the many possible variations or disruptions that could occur in a given situation and what you would need to quickly be ready to handle it. As a reporter going into an interview, you might depend on an audio recorder and a camera, but given the precarity of all equipment, and their dependence on batteries or electrical power, you would also carry a notebook and pen. As a reporter, you also go in with a certain set of questions and ideas, but you need to second guess yourself and think about all points of view that could make these questions redundant, if you need to quickly switch to another track.

Essentially, adaptability is all about backup; equipping yourself with the material resources you need for a range of possibilities and being mentally prepared to deal with the unexpected.

The writer teaches at the University of Hyderabad and edits Teacher Plus.

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Printable version | Mar 7, 2021 9:16:14 AM |

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