Bend or Break - Which Will You Do?

When I was a kid I liked to take things apart and try to put them back together again. Besides the problem of ending up with ‘extra’ parts, I was often frustrated when a piece of the toaster, radio or whatever I was working on wouldn’t flex enough to accommodate easy removal or replacement. On more than one occasion I damaged the part to the point of rendering it useless or ineffective. Unlike pieces of hardware that weren’t made to bend or flex, humans were designed with this capacity… and for good reason. We are bombarded daily with challenges and demands that can place pressure on us, especially in our relationships. Some of the common pressures in the workplace involve changing deadlines, increased responsibilities, canceled meetings, uncontrollable market or economic trends, long hours, demanding supervisors, negative co-workers and the list goes on. Successful people don’t snap under these pressures because they have learned to be more flexible. This doesn’t mean they don’t care and it doesn’t minimize the significance of the stress. It means they are able to put their circumstances in perspective, which allows them to think, feel and behave in ways that will keep their frustration at a manageable level. Below are three simple tips to help you learn to bend instead of break. 1. Examine your thoughts The best way to make yourself more flexible is to reframe what you think about a specific situation or circumstance. For example: Rigid thinking: “I’m the only one having to do this lousy job.” Flexible thinking: “We all have to do our part in order to succeed.” Rigid thinking: “They don’t pay me enough to work this many hours.” Flexible thinking: “It won’t hurt me to stay a little later to get this project done.” Rigid thinking: “If they don’t do it my way it will never work.” Flexible thinking: “My way is not the only way of getting the job done.” 2. Eliminate grumbling Grumbling reveals and reinforces your inflexible thoughts, making it much more difficult to change your attitude and behavior. Keeping your negative thoughts to yourself will make it much easier to examine and modify them. It will also prevent them from spreading to your co-workers and undermining morale. 3. Express optimism When you express optimism you send a signal to your brain that all is well. Your brain then responds to the good news by releasing chemicals that make you feel better. This positive emotional response will, in turn, reinforce your positive thoughts making it easier to be optimistic and flexible in the future. It’s a cycle you can perpetuate indefinitely if you stay focused on the positive. Your circumstances don’t have the power to break you unless you allow yourself to fall into a pattern of voicing your negative thinking. It may take some time to reverse a long-standing habit of rigidity, but it only takes a second to make the decision to be more flexible – to become unbreakable!


As the President and Founder of Relational Advantage, Inc., Dr. Todd E. Linaman is committed to developing personal and organizational potential into a higher level of quality performance. For fifteen years prior to launching Relational Advantage, Inc., Dr. Linaman gained extensive business and professional experience serving as the Executive Director of a multi-state network of behavioral health clinics and the Vice President of a national non-profit educational media corporation. He is a lice...

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