Adapting to Thrive: Tools and Perspectives for an Adaptive Mindset

Adapting to Thrive: Tools and Perspectives for an Adaptive Mindset

In a world that never stops changing, the ability to adapt is more crucial than ever. Whether it's navigating the complexities of a new job or dealing with the stressors of daily life, being adaptive can make all the difference. The psychological tools to develop a more adaptive mind, adaptive coping skills, and how you move relates to adaptability will be addressed. How prioritizing movement efficiency with Functional Patterns (FP) for adaptability will also be covered. 

Understanding Adaptability: The Foundation of Resilience

Adaptability, or the capacity to adjust to new conditions is a cornerstone of psychological well-being and effective stress management. It's a trait that allows us to navigate life's ups and downs with composure. To be adaptive isn’t just about surviving, but thriving in the face of new challenges. The adaptive mind is one that can quickly and efficiently process new information, adjust to change, and implement functional coping strategies despite being in stressful situations.

Three Core Adaptive Skills: A Triad for Success

The first of these skills is problem-solving, which requires critical thinking and finding the root cause of problems to overcome challenges. Next is emotional regulation, which involves understanding how one's emotions affect decision making. This skill is pivotal for managing stress and making balanced decisions.

The third skill is developing movement efficiency by focusing primarily on improving the FP “First Four” - standing, walking, running, and throwing. These skills are not just innate traits since they can be improved over time. Theses skills come down to developing competence in the three areas of intelligence: intellect, emotional, and kinesthetic.1

Adaptive Coping Skills in Action

These adaptive skills of developing different forms of intelligence are demonstrated through both professional and personal activities. In terms of intellect, adaptive coping skills to prevent problems include determining the difference between ambiguous and quantifiable communication. 

For example, measuring the approximate weight of an object compared to saying something is heavy could be interpreted differently depending on the context and different people. Another example would be if someone is doing a FP exercise and cued only to move their leg forward. This could be interpreted differently depending on if they are lying on their back or in a standing position. 

If there is no option but to use ambiguities, it’s best to have an agreed upon definition as clear as reasonably possible by all parties before making decisions. This may seem trivial but if basic facts aren’t efficiently communicated, critical thinking is much more challenging to develop. “The Tyranny of Words'' by Stuart Chase is one of the best tools to develop adaptive coping skills to prevent dysfunctionally coping.2 

“The Tyranny of Words” by Stuart Chase book cover.

The Role of Stress Management

Managing stress is an integral part of adaptability. Adaptive coping skills such as becoming more aware when not only in emotional states that cause high stress, but also making decisions emotionally that can create stressful problems. 

A way to hone into proactive adaptive skills may include making reminders to yourself to reflect on highly emotional times of the day. The goal of this isn’t just mindfulness, rather to problem solve and follow up with finding the root cause of high stress states. For example, high stress could result from a person's response to stress or the stressful environment itself. It seems common for mindfulness meaning people to engage in self talk that brings desirable emotions. Instead, admitting to when emotional responses are the root cause to unmanageable stress can be start to problem solving. 

The Adaptive Mind and Functional Patterns 

One of the best examples of adaptive development can be seen in athletes like Usain Bolt and Barry Sanders. Their ability to adapt running technique based on various factors such as competition level has made them some of the greatest recorded sprinters of all time. They have significantly developed their body to maintain emotionally and physically relaxed states outside of training. This is shown in their body language in interviews for example.3

At FP, one of the main goals is to create a stimulus on the body to replicate elite athletes' movement. We do this by optimizing for efficiency on the movements humans evolved to perform the most, outlined in the FP “First Four” - standing, walking, running, and throwing. Developing an adaptive mind involves training your brain and body to work together rather than to mindlessly train for building muscle or flexibility. The skill of optimizing movement efficiency around the FP “First Four,” transfers for most to more relaxed facial expressions and body language even during sedentary behavior closer to elite athletes. 


The journey to developing an adaptive mind and adaptive coping skills can depend on determining the root cause of one’s own and others behaviors. One can be more adaptive to different roles in the workplace by working on not only intelligence, but also emotional and kinesthetic intelligence. This can be done by eliminating ambiguous language, determining the root cause of emotions responses to high stress, and prioritizing the FP “First Four”- standing, walking, running, and throwing. Adaptability is not just about surviving, it's about thriving in whatever situation you find yourself in. 


“Think intentionally, not habitually.” - Naudi Aguilar, Founder of Functional Patterns 

If you're interested in Functional Patterns, we recommend you to watch the Project Function Podcast (@projectfunctionpodcast).

Learn more about Functional Patterns and adaptability in the following resources: 


  1. Functional Patterns Atlanta. "Principle #4: Develop Critical Thinking Skills."  September 4, 2023.
  2. Chase, Stuart. “The Tyranny of Words.” Harvest/HBJ, April 15, 1959. 
  3. Amazon Studios. “Bye Bye Barry.” Amazon Original Video, 2023.
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