9 characteristics of highly adaptable individuals

You’ve probably realized that being highly adaptable is an incredibly useful trait to have in life.

Highly adaptable individuals are better able to reach their goals, meet success, and are more pleasant to be around too.

How can you become a more adaptable person? 

Here are 9 characteristics that you may recognize in yourself.

1) Open-mindedness

You’ll notice that any person who is highly adaptable is also very open-minded. In fact, it’s impossible to be one thing without the other. Here’s why:

Adaptability means you can adjust to changing circumstances. This means you have to consider and try out new solutions, processes, or ways of thinking when new issues come up. 

If you stubbornly stay stuck in your old way of thinking, or your old plan for achieving a goal, you won’t get anywhere because the situation has changed. 

So open-mindedness is what allows you to stop beliefs or opinions that no longer help you in the current situation. You drop your biases and preconceptions, and take in new information without judgment. 

You may even need to challenge your fears or values. 

For example, when Covid-19 lockdowns began in 2020, many employers with traditional mindsets had to switch to a work-from-home model to keep their business going. 

They may have been against it at the beginning, but if they were open-minded enough to give it a proper shot without looking for confirmation of their pessimism, many found that it actually worked quite effectively — and being open to this is what helped them keep their business going. 

2) Creativity

As they say, when there’s a will, there’s a way – and creativity helps you find that way when it comes to being highly adaptable.

This is what helps you come up with innovative solutions to adapt to changing circumstances and unexpected problems. It also lets you look past your current fears to find mindsets that better serve you in a new situation. 

Here is a personal example of how creativity helps people adapt.

I’m learning Latin dancing, and attend classes as well as “socials” where people meet up to practice together. As these are couple dances, you need to meet up with at least one other person.

So the lockdowns of Covid-19 naturally made it a little hard to practice. But people in the community found all sorts of ways to adapt.

Some started practicing on their own through videos and an imaginary partner — others even made makeshift mannequins on wheels to act as their partner. 

Those who couldn’t, focused instead on improving their individual footwork and styling, which you don’t need a partner for. 

3) Positive attitude

Any highly adaptable person will also have a positive attitude, at least for the most part.

When you have a plan and things don’t go according to it, it’s natural to feel upset. You may want to try to get things back on track — and maybe you can. 

But if not, you will need to adapt. To do this, you need to be able to believe that things can still work out with this new course of action.

You’ll look for the possibility and opportunity, with the humility to realize that you don’t always know best. Sometimes random circumstances can show you better ways that you never would have even thought of before.

I’m willing to bet that you have several examples of this in your own life already. Think about how you met your partner or best friend, how you found your hobbies, or even how you got your current job or house.

Probably at least one of these things happened as a result of something not going according to plan. And look how great it turned out!

If you resisted this instead of adapting to it, you wouldn’t have these incredibly good things in your life. 

Keep this in mind when other unexpected situations come up, and you’ll find it much easier to adapt. 

4) Resilience

Every person’s life is full of ups and downs, but it’s how we deal with them that makes all the difference for our experience and happiness. 

Resilience is the quality that helps you bounce back from difficult situations, and to cope with change more easily. Of course, resilient people still experience stress and problems, but they don’t give up because of them. 

This is the key to achieving your goals even in the face of adversity, which we all inevitably face sooner or later.

Look at any success story, and there are surely many examples of resilience and adaptability in it. 

Recently, I heard a French podcast episode which interviewed a young man who was a top triathlonist in France. During one training session, he was hit by a car and suffered an extremely rare rupture in his leg with extremely low chances of full recovery.

He decided he would be part of that 1% that recovered, and kept working every single day to be a little better than the previous one. Within months and to the amazement of his medical team, he was back on his feet. 

Naturally, resilience doesn’t work alone — the young man I mentioned above also had to have a positive mindset, self-discipline, and good emotional regulation. 

5) Flexibility

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Flexibility is another characteristic of someone who is great at adapting to new situations. 

In my opinion, flexibility is a key component of adaptability because it allows us to shift our focus and priorities when needed. 

When we are too rigid in our ways, it can be difficult to make changes or adapt to new situations. But when we are flexible, we are more open to exploring new options and finding creative solutions to problems.

For instance, let’s say you have a plan to start your own business, but the market conditions change, and your idea is no longer viable. 

If you are a flexible person, you can re-evaluate your options and adjust your plans accordingly. You might pivot your business idea, find a new target market, or explore other opportunities altogether. 

On the other hand, if you are rigid in your thinking, you might get stuck in your original plan, and struggle to move forward when it doesn’t work out.

Being flexible also means being able to let go of things that are no longer serving us. 

Sometimes, we hold onto ideas, relationships, or habits that are no longer useful or healthy.

But if we can learn to let go of these things and be open to new experiences and possibilities, we can adapt more easily to changes in our lives.

6) Curiosity

Curiosity is a powerful and rather underappreciated force for problem solving.

When you come up against an issue, whether it’s at work or in your personal life, most people react with frustration and try to fix or circumvent the problem.

But highly adaptable individuals approach it with genuine curiosity. 

  • What caused this issue? 
  • What other factors are at play here? 
  • How likely is this to happen again? 
  • Is there a way to prevent this from happening? 
  • Is this maybe a good thing in some way?

When you do this, you get to know the problem on a much deeper level, allowing you to understand it so well that adapting to it becomes much easier too. 

At the same time, you open yourself up to new information, new experiences, and the most effective personal growth. 

7) Resourcefulness

It might seem like some people are better able to adapt to situations because they have better resources at hand.

But the truth is, they have the same resources as you do — they have just learned to be better at finding and using them.

I saw a real-life example of this last week, when I was traveling with my friends. We had rented an apartment and bought a bottle of wine to share one evening. 

But it was a cork bottle, and there was no corkscrew anywhere in the apartment. 

So one of my friends went through every drawer until he found a long metal rod. None of us were sure what its true purpose is supposed to be, but it turns out that it can help open a cork bottle of wine in a pinch. 

We used it to push the cork down as far as it could go before the air resistance stopped it. Then we pried a bit of space between the cork and the bottle using a knife, and let a bit of wine drip out. 

Consequently, we were able to push the cork down a little bit further each time, until we could push it all the way in. 

As you might imagine, resourceful people also tend to have a more positive experience of life. Though this example is a very simple one and it might even sound silly, we definitely had more fun finding a solution together rather than just giving up (and not enjoying the wine!).

8) Strong communication skills

Communication skills are an integral characteristic of a highly adaptable individual.

This is what lets you express your needs, thoughts, and ideas effectively, as well as listen actively and respond well to others. 

And these skills are crucial anytime you need to adapt to new situations, which inevitably will involve other people. 

You’ll be able to build rapport with others, communicate your needs and goals, and form connections that help you navigate the unknown territory.

Furthermore, good communication is in itself a part of adapting itself. Not everyone communicates in the same way, depending on their background, profession, and personality.

For me, this is a crucial part of my job as an English teacher to foreigners. When I work with people at a beginner English level, I slow down my speaking and simplify my vocabulary in order to give them a comfortable environment that meets them at their level.

But even in other professions, it’s important to understand how others communicate and adapt your style to fit the situation or person you’re talking to. It helps you build trust and credibility, and get your message across clearly.

9) Self-awareness

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Last but certainly not least, highly adaptable people also tend to be self-aware. 

Being self-aware comes from being able to self-reflect accurately. You take the time to introspect and get to know your own thoughts and feelings without judgment.

You eventually come to understand your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as your biases and limitations. This is essential for adapting to new situations and environments, as you can adapt your behavior to fit the situation. 

For example, let’s say you’re starting a new job in a completely different field from your previous work experience. 

With self-awareness, you can recognize that you may not have all the necessary skills or knowledge to excel in your new role. However, because you are self-aware, you can also acknowledge your limitations and take steps to develop new skills and knowledge that will help you adapt to the new environment.

Final thoughts

Now you know 9 core characteristics of highly adaptable individuals.

I’m sure you recognize yourself strongly in some, but there are probably a few that you find you can do better at.

Thankfully, the personality is very fluid, and there is always room to grow and get better at something. 

I’m certain it will serve you incredibly well in life.


Picture of Silvia Adamyova

Silvia Adamyova

Born in Slovakia, raised in Canada, with a translation degree from University of Ottawa and an editing certificate from Simon Fraser University. Now based back in Slovakia (if you’re wondering why - have you seen Canadian winters?). Full-time freelance English teacher, translator, editor, and copywriter. Part-time avid reader, self-development junkie, and cake addict. I hope my writing inspires you in some way — if it does, find me on LinkedIn or Instagram and let me know!

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