The defining skill of 2021: Mental agility

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Written by Gemma Leigh Roberts on 25 February 2021 in Opinion
Opinion

Gemma Leigh Roberts explains that the skill we should be focusing on as we move through 2021 is our mental agility.

As two months of 2021 have passed, the scars of 2020 still continue for many of us. We are learning more each day that developing our skills mentally and within the working world are becoming key to leading a successful and positive year.

If you’re looking to get ahead at work in 2021, here’s why developing your mental agility could be the answer.

As we all learned over the course of 2020, life can throw us curve balls. We can’t predict everything that will come our way, and we can’t plan for every scenario. This time last year, I’m sure few of us could have imagined what was in store. So when things change in a way we weren’t expecting, how do we take it in stride to ensure the most positive outcome?

What exactly is mental agility? It's the capacity to respond to events in a flexible way and be able to move quickly between different ideas. If you’re mentally agile, you can take in change and find the best course of action to move forward despite unpredictable events. It’s not about having all the answers – but about being confident that you can figure out a new way of doing things to get where you want to go.

So, if you want to develop your mental agility this year, how can you go about it? Here are my four top tips:

Accept the situation

Sometimes things happen that throw us off course – 2020 is a great example of that. If it’s a change that we’re unhappy about, it’s natural to want to fight against it. However, when the situation is beyond our control, the first thing to do is simply accept the new circumstances we find ourselves in.

What exactly is mental agility? It's the capacity to respond to events in a flexible way and be able to move quickly between different ideas.

This isn’t always easy, and it’s OK to process emotions around major shifts in order to get to that acceptance, but the important thing is to acknowledge that we need to move forward in a different way.

Have a growth mindset

Believing that you can always continue to learn and develop – even if you’re an expert in your field – helps you keep growing, stay ahead of the competition, and understand what you can do to up your game. A growth mindset is key to mental agility, as it will ensure you regularly challenge your perspective and come up with innovative ways to tackle challenges.

It will also help you to view failures as learning opportunities. Not everything you do will always work the first time, but it could be a step in the right direction and you’ll learn something from the experience.

Focus on support

If you’ve seen some of my other videos, you may know that I talk a lot about support – I think it’s one of the most underrated parts of resilience. Building a support network can be challenging in a virtual world, when how we work, socialise and interact with other people has changed so drastically.

 

But having someone to bounce ideas off of, debrief with, or simply who can lend a listening ear (whether that’s a colleague, friend or mentor), can help you work through a problem and decide how to respond to an event.

Stop and think

We often react quickly and emotionally to unexpected events, which sometimes leads us to act in ways that aren’t useful. If you can give yourself some space and time to think before doing anything, it can mean that you approach the situation more strategically.

Take at least a few moments to breathe, take in what is going on around you, and ensure your response is appropriate to the situation and not just an automatic panic reaction.

How have you had to be adaptable since living and working through a pandemic? Is mental agility something you’re focusing on in 2021?

 

About the author

Gemma Leigh Roberts is an organisational psychologist and founder of The Resilience Edge

 

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