It’s the one that is most “Adaptable” that survives
“Adaptability” was the first soft skill introduced. So, why do we need to be adaptable? Imagine if we are “thrown” into a new environment, say joining a new club, new university, new class, new company or meeting new friends. If we can’t adapt well, what likely to happen is that we may find ourselves stuck in an awkward position and then we will probably harbor a feeling of hoping the session ends as soon as possible. This is particularly true when we attend an interview or when we happen to sit beside a stranger and are forced to talk to them so that the whole setting looks “natural”.
Figure 1: An awkward face
Now, let’s zoom out to a bigger picture. Imagine if your boss entrusts you with a new project in which you totally have no previous exposure and he needs you to come up with a proposal within 3 days, how will your feelings be like? Feeling hopeless because you don’t even know how to start? Or feeling upbeat because you take it as a challenge and an “golden opportunity” to prove your capability to your boss? If you are not adaptable enough, you probably will experience the former feeling.
Through the above small examples, I hope you can catch the idea of how important adaptability is in ensuring us to survive in such as fast-changing society. As I have mentioned in my previous post, changes are happening every now and then. Now it really seems like “the only constant is change”. If we don’t embrace changes, soon or later we will be eliminated by the cruel reality.
Comfort zone determines our “Adaptability”
Previously, what I understood about adaptability was the ability to adapt by accepting uncertainties encountered and be ready to face any unforeseen circumstances. Also, use the least amount of time and efforts to get ourselves familiar with the new environment and look out for resources available and turn them to our advantage.
In the book, the author made use of the concept of “comfort zone” to help illustrate the idea of adaptability. It was said that the size of our comfort zone will determine our adaptability. The larger our comfort zone, the tendency of us being adaptable will be much higher. This is because as our comfort zone becomes bigger, the things that we are comfortable in doing increase and our previous fear towards them abates.
In learning process, there are 3 zones, namely comfort zone, learning zone and panic zone. If we keep staying in comfort zone, then we will not be able to learn and grow. Learning zone is the zone where we learn something new or do something more challenging but it is still considered manageable. As we overcome the difficulties, we will grow and our comfort zone will also expand outwards, which means that we are now comfortable to do what we previously not so confident to commit. Panic zone is the zone whereby the difficulty of the task has significantly exceeded our current abilities, which means that given our current capabilities, we can’t even move on and this will have an adverse impact on our learning as we may feel discouraged by it.
Figure 2: Comfort zone, learning zone and panic zone
So, always be ready to try something new or even take initiative to learn something new. By doing so, we will be able to expand our comfort zone and our adaptability will also increase, subsequently we will have higher chances to survive in this world.
Chew before you swallow
In recent few years, “critical thinking” has unknowingly become one of the most sought-after skill by employers. Have you ever wondered why is it so? One of the primary reasons is due to the vast amount of information made accessible across Internet. There is tremendous amount of information that we receive from various channels such as news, social media or peers on everyday basis. However, if we step back and take a holistic look at how we received those information, it’s not surprising to realize that most of us take whatever fed to us at face value without any attempts to verify or validate it. Doesn’t it sound dangerous? As we will at least make sure the food is edible before consuming it but when it comes to receiving information, we turn out to “digest” it without checking its authenticity and reliability.
The other reason why critical thinking is so important is because the formation of our beliefs, opinions and perceptions have been unknowingly influenced by our own biases. Say for example, we may have committed “confirmation bias” when we deliberately look for evidence which supports our claim and neglect those that go against our argument. We may have committed “attribution bias” when we believe that our successes come from our own ability but when it comes to failures, we attribute them to external factors such as lack of luck. Also, whenever we find ourselves unable to recall what has really happened, we will naturally resort to our own imagination to fill in the memory lapses, which can prove to be inaccurate at times. If we don’t practice critical thinking, chances are these biases will still exert their influences on the formation of our very own opinions or thoughts.
Not finding fault, but discovering truth
So, what is critical thinking all about? To put it in simple terms, it is a skill which can help us to uncover the logic or the truth behind something presented to us, be it a news article or information shared by our friends, by questioning its assumptions and challenging its stances. Many people mistake critical thinking as finding faults as they think that everything seems to be “logical” to them and so why do they have to trouble themselves looking for loopholes within those arguments. It is just like the Chinese saying, “picking bones out of eggshells”. However, more often than not, the reality turns out to be what they perceived as “logical” is just their own illusion. If they were to think harder, they could probably detect the underlying logical loopholes or biased assumptions that lie between the lines.
Figure 3: Finding the puzzle that leads us to truth
Also, critical thinking itself is a mindset, attitude and way of thinking that we should constantly remind ourselves to adopt and apply on a consistent basis, until it is successfully internalized into our subconsciousness. Many people have this notion that critical thinking only applies to occasions when we need to critique an article or when we need to deliver our opinions about a specified topic. However, the application of critical thinking covers far more than that. Say for instance, when people are sharing their stances or opinions with us, we need to call out our critical thinking skill to verify whether their arguments make sense. Could they be overgeneralizing certain aspects of issue that leads to their inaccurate conclusion? Could they be overlooking certain critical assumptions which adversely affect the accuracy of their statements? These are some of the “traps” that we should look out for when conversing with others. Otherwise, we may find ourselves easily swayed by others’ opinions and sometimes we may even end up accepting two contradictory conclusions without being aware of their contradiction. This may seem to be “disastrous” from third person point of view.
With the examples illustrated above, I hope that you gain a better idea of why is critical thinking such an important skill during this Information Age. Always be ready to question or challenge others’ assumptions (even your very own thoughts), not to find fault with them, but to seek for a more comprehensive truth.
Food for thoughts:
- How long have you been staying within your own comfort zone, without realizing that it has not expanded over the past few years? After realizing it, what do you plan to do with it?
- Think of how you treat information received on every day. Do you swallow it directly or chew before you swallow?
- Recall if there are any previous occasions whereby you suffer from unnecessary trouble or losses as you don’t practice critical thinking.