Are You Rigid or Flexible?

By Jay Forte

Do you remember Aesop’s fable “The Oak and the Reed”? It goes like this.

There once was a mighty oak who shared the bank of a river with a reed. The oak, proud of its strength and ability to stand up to the wind, critiques the reed as weak as even the slightest wind or the weight of a small bird can make it bend. The reed responds that it is not afraid of the wind because it has the ability to bend but not break. The mighty oak dismisses and praises its rigidity just as a strong wind comes and uproots the oak. The reed continues to bend and lives another day. The moral: Those who know how to bend and yield, succeed in life.

I think it’s pretty obvious that most of us are like the oak tree: rigid. Though there are benefits to this, it’s important to recognize that there are also some challenges. For example, when we are rigid, we hold on tightly to things we believe, even if we don’t know why we believe them. If a belief stops you from being your greatest self, or living authentically, or inhibits another person from doing the same, it is defined as a limiting belief.

Before you claim you don’t have any limiting beliefs, take a moment to reflect on this statement: we all have limiting beliefs. Many come from the way we were raised, what we were taught or who we spent (or spend) time with. Without recognizing limiting beliefs, you can find yourself remaining rigid in most situations when being flexible would allow you to accept new information, think more creatively and openly on your feet, update your beliefs and show up more successfully to each moment.

Let’s take a look at some powerful examples.

  1. Think about your political beliefs. How rigid are you in your beliefs about our current situation and your affiliation with one political party or another? How could you be open and flexible to define what you believe and not let others dictate this for you?
  2. Think about your role in the workplace. Where are you rigid in a way that does not serve you? How could being more flexible – more open, more creative, more supportive – to better encourage your performance and effectiveness? How could you encourage and support the ideas and perspectives of others, even if they may be contrary to yours?
  3. Think about your role as a parent. How rigid or flexible are you? How do you create and support meaningful rules for your kids but allow them change as your kids change? How do you involve your kids in establishing family rules and values to [appropriately] accommodate a variety of perspectives? How are you supporting your kids to be the best version of themselves, even if it isn’t in line with what you have planned for them?
  4. Think about your role as a person, in general. Where are you rigid in a way that alienates others? How could you be more flexible to allow others to be who they are instead of who you need or require them to be?

There isn’t one way to do anything; there are a lot of ways. Being rigid just rules out options and results in missing out on the great value others have to offer. To be successful in anything today, it requires you to be agile, flexible and responsive. It’s only with this perspective that you can truly benefit from the value in each moment.

When you stop and notice you, are you like the oak – standing rigid all the time – or are you more like the reed – flexible to accommodate life on life’s terms?

How you live is up to you. Rigid or flexible. It’s your choice.

Important Questions from a Coach:

1. Stop and notice. Are you more rigid in the most important aspects of your life or flexible?
2. What is something you can do today to become more flexible in one area of life that is of particular importance to you (work, relationships, etc.)?
3. What lessons do you need to learn to make each day happier, more successful and more loving?


Consider reading Are You a Life Owner or a Life Blamer?

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