How flexible are you? No, I’m not talking here about your ability to pull your legs behind your head in a standing position. How flexible are you as it relates to your personal growth and confidence building?Once you’ve identified the path you wish to take to improve yourself, do you then bang your head against a brick wall and keep at it, whether your plan is working or not?

Einstein has said to us that only fools try the same thing time after time – hoping for different results. Being focused and tenacious are great qualities to possess, but at which point do they become ‘pig-headedness’?

When it comes to building your confidence, are you at breaking point, or are you flexible enough to bend?

How flexible are you


image source 

I came across this image and it really caught my eye. I’ve got lots of bamboo in my front garden and I know how strong those seemingly frail stems can be. (In fact, I only planted out my bamboos last year, so they’re not even well-established plants yet.) During the last storm we had, I was appalled to see how much they bent and waved – and even folded almost at the waist. But none of them broke – not a single, solitary, little bamboo stem was on the ground the next morning.

Yet, 50 yards up the road, in the school yard, where they have dozens of large, ancient, magnificent trees (oak included), there were hundreds of branches lying on the ground – and even on the road the next morning. The same event that broke these solid, powerful, established, strong branches is the very same event that left the tiny, puny bamboos untouched.

That one element responsible for this phenomenon is – flexibility. 

  • The bamboos were able to bend when the pressure became overbearing.
  • They were able to ‘read’ their next move because they stood still enough to listen (for the direction of the wind) first.
  • They knew exactly how to move with pressure. They went forward quickly when required, and bent backwards when it was necessary.
  • They didn’t care how they looked. They just concentrated on getting through the storm. They knew they had time to ‘look cool’  when the hard part was all over.

How you can become flexible

Be able to bend with pressure

Life gets hard at some stages. Most times we’re just peddling through to make the best of what we have. At other times, life is so bitter, we can’t even bear to take a bite out of it. In these periods, we only carry on because of our loved ones around us.

If, like the bamboo we can’t bend with the pressures of life, we’ll break like the strong oak. Like I said before, it’s great to keep focused on your goals, but when you hit a difficult patch, realise that it’s okay to just scrape through. It’s normal to have some days where you’re doing only the basics to keep your life going. It’s okay to spend a day in bed, to cry, to talk about your feelings, to be weak and feel stressed. It’s all human nature and we’re allowed to express these weaker emotions too. If you have to bend to keep going, do so.

One day the act of bending will be the very thing that builds your strength.

Be able to read what you body is feeling

In order to be flexible it’s best to be able to read the signs. Even though the bamboos are bending like crazy, they’re not doing so without motive or reason. They bend with the wind, and they don’t start moving until they’re hit. This way they head in the direction of the wind, rather than against it.

Flexibility in life is about being able to ‘read’ situations. This means that you have to allow each of your life’s experiences to count. You have to learn from them. This is the only way you’ll be able to know yourself well enough to spot trends about to happen in your life. Stress don’t just creep up on you suddenly. It takes a while to build up. Learn to notice these signs and act accordingly. If you have health problems, there are usually tell-tale signs when they’re about to hit again.

Stand still enough to notice what’s happening in your life so you can return the throw in time; so you can ‘duck’ in time; or so that you can react accordingly with the best response necessary.

Learn how to respond to difficult situations in your life

Not all of us know exactly what to do if a fire breaks out. Not many people know exactly what to do if someone faints. Do you? When it comes to our flexibility in coping with life, we need to have exactly the right response. You need to know when to let it go, leave it alone, fight for it, or go back and find answers. Not all these responses are appropriate for every event or experience, so you have to be able to pick the correct one. This sometimes comes after a lot of trial and error, but you know what, that’s all right too. How else will we learn if not by experience!

The important thing with this point is that you learn from hardships in life. These lessons are there to show you how to deal with pressure when it arrives. They are the reference points we use to work out if we should stay, run off, move forward or just play possum for a while.

Realise that it will all be over in time

And when it is, your life will be richer for all the flexibility you’ve put in. You’ll be stronger for the experience, richer in the knowledge that you can cope when hard times hit again. When the storm is over, bamboos usually get back to their ‘normal lives’. This is the process which builds your confidence and lets you know you can deal with hardship the next time it comes around.

Bamboos are green throughout the winter, they need very little care, they’re beautiful at any time of year, and they can pro-create the area within a couple of years. 🙂

How about you? How flexible are you? Are you willing to bend when life’s tough or do you see strength in banging your head against a hard door.

Please share ‘How Flexible Are You’ with someone else today. 


30 Responses to “How Flexible Are You”

  1. Dennis Do says:

    Great great GREEEAATTT article Anne!!

    I used to be an oak person, but now I’m a bamboo after learning the hard way. I realized that in order to survive in society, you need to adapt to it. This post made it very clear and even offers some insightful examples. I love it. 🙂

    • Anne says:

      Thank you, Dennis.

      Adaptation takes more strength than a lot of people realise. They usually think it’s strength that makes you hold onto your ways, but sometimes this can be cowardice and a reluctance to let go of the comfort zone.

      I’m not saying that we should let go of our principles (far from it), but like the piece said, sometimes flexibility in some situations is exactly what’s required for us to be able to advance in life.

  2. Anne, this is very well written, sound advice and a beautiful visual aid to help bring the point home. I find that being flexible has gotten me through many difficult situations and leaves me room to be firm at other times.
    Judy Sheldon-Walker recently posted..Shadows and Reflections at the PondMy Profile

    • Anne says:

      Exactly, Judy. Once we learn flexibility, we’re still able to be wise enough to know when tenacity is required.

      I also think that to some degree, flexibility comes with experience.

  3. Wonderful post Anne, enjoyed reading this! In the past, i tended to always feel like I had to be superman to everyone around me. An I spent so much time being strong for everyone else, that it made me weak. People seemed to forget that I was human too. But instead of bending like the bamboo and allowing myself to vent or shake, I carried everyone’s weight (including mines) and ended up breaking like the oak.

    So I know oh tell well what you are talking about…I’m much better at bending these days, my oak days are done and the storm seems to be over now. I’m living my normal life like the bamboo lol

    I really like this article Anne you are an phenomenal writer!
    Maurice Lindsay recently posted..My 2012 Gratitude ListMy Profile

    • Anne says:

      Thank you for your very kind comment, Maurice. I really do appreciate it.

      I used to think that I had to be unfolding – that it meant I was strong. Of course, I will never give up my principles, but with the things that are not that important in life, I’ve learned that I don’t always have to be right. I don’t always have to stand up for them just because they’re my opinions.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      • Yes, that was definitely (and at times still is) a big one for me.

        Its always been a habit of mine to stand up for my opinions, small or big. But like you said, the things that aren’t that important in life I don’t have to be right at. I’m learning to be more flexible, which comes with experience.
        Maurice Lindsay recently posted..My 2012 Gratitude ListMy Profile

  4. Ken Wert from MeanttobeHappy says:

    What a powerful lesson that is, Anne! I was just writing in a book review suggesting that when we stand too rigidly, we end up with splintered lives.

    Your experience of the flexible bamboo in the storm is a perfect metaphor for when we try to control and manipulate too much of life, unwilling to let small stuff remain small, we often end up broken.

    Great post, Anne!
    Ken Wert recently posted..No Posts Were Found!My Profile

  5. Hiten says:

    Hi Anne,

    This was an absolutely amazing post.

    I loved the way you described bamboo and used it as an analogy to the characteristics of a flexible person. Bamboo really is versatile and we can take much inspiration from this plant.

    Your post was full of nuggets of wisdom. One I loved in particular, was how you explained that stress builds up over time. It doesn’t just happen. We can use this knowledge to help us to be vigilant of the initial signs and as you say, learn to let go.
    Hiten recently posted..NLP Presuppositions Part 1My Profile

    • Anne says:

      HI Hiten, Thank you for your insight. May we all learn to let go and not collect the burden of stress and bad thoughts throughout our lives. I know people who’ve done this and it makes for a miserable life for them – but especially for the people who’re in their lives.
      Flexibility is key to learning to cope with hard times. We can either choose to collect the bad stuff or let them go.
      Anne recently posted..Make The Best Of Small KitchensMy Profile

  6. What a lovely image Anne, and what a powerful message. When we fight and resist the circumstances of our life, a state of fear and upset is created that almost always makes the situation worse. Flexibility enables us to let go of resisting, and restores peace of mind which in turn allows us to see our situation more clearly and what needs to be done. Thanks for the inspiration!
    marquita herald recently posted..Prevent Chronic Complainers from Sucking Away Your EnergyMy Profile

    • Anne says:

      Thanks for the wisdom and input, Marty. You’re right, peace of mind is definitely the thing that allows us to see our situation more clearly. We can’t see when we’re confused or buried under the mist of confusion.

      Thanks for stopping by, as always.

  7. Justin says:

    Hi Anne,
    Love the bamboo/oak quote btw, it is so true. Being flexible has worked so much well for me than being stiff and rigid. I think many of us get stuck in our ways and allow the mind to be in control. One of the best pieces of advice I had ever received is to know when to get out of your own way.

    Take care.
    Justin recently posted..Read This if You Want to Survive 2012My Profile

  8. I chose the picture of the bamboo for my blog, Prosper with Aspergers, because when anyone is born “different”, they need to develop the strength of flexibility. One aspect I’ve needed to learn about flexibility is how to be graceful/compassionate toward myself. I’m often harder on myself than I am on others, particularly when it comes to personal growth areas in my own life. This was such a powerful article. Thank you, Anne!
    Steve Borgman recently posted..Keep Your Marriage Strong With These Organization TipsMy Profile

    • Anne says:

      I wasn’t aware of that, Steve. That’s great to know.

      I’m like you as well – always harder on myself than I am on others. I think it’s because I know I have the ability to do things, yet when I procrastinate, I frustrate myself 🙂

      Thanks for dropping by.

  9. Ty says:

    Hi Anne. I really enjoyed section on becoming flexible and bending with pressure.
    Ty recently posted..Super CookerMy Profile

  10. Eliot says:

    Hi Anne,

    I really enjoyed when you said, “You need to know when to let it go, leave it alone, fight for it, or go back and find answers. Not all these responses are appropriate for every event or experience, so you have to be able to pick the correct one.” I totally agree, responding correctly in a situation is so important.

    I noticed your image was broken. You may want to self host the image to combat broken images in the future. Even without the image, I really enjoyed the post.;)
    Eliot recently posted..Teaching a Kid Link BuildingMy Profile

  11. boujlal says:

    Wonderful post Anne, I like it

  12. Nick says:

    I feel like almost all of this indirectly related to age. Not sure if it apply to everyone.

  13. marksteve says:

    An I spent so much time being strong for everyone else, that it made me weak. People seemed to forget that I was human too. But instead of bending like the bamboo and allowing myself to vent or shake, I carried everyone’s weight (including mines) and ended up breaking like the oak.

  14. Harlee says:

    It took me MANY years to learn to be flexible in my everyday life. I was so stubborn, it was my way or the highway. But as I got older and started reading some motival and spiritual books. It taught me that I was only isolating myself and losing out on possible friendships. Your piece on flexibility really resonates with me.

    Thanks for the great post

  15. sabrina says:

    Bamboo as your example in flexibility is totally perfect .Yes it has the characteristics that we need to have . Anyway , I honestly cant comprehend how flexible I am . Maybe through the trials that I undergone , I can say that I am flexible enough to face what life has to offer. I just need to adapt the situations in order to survive just like the bamboo.

  16. Anne you presented a very perfect example of flexibility – the bamboo. I cannot really say that I am that flexible but I am always trying to be considerate over things and thinking that some things good or bad always happen. No one can ever control them and the best thing to deal with it is just to “go with the flow”. I have this motivational piece for myself, its pretty crazy, just forgive me for sharing this one “if bad things happen, which you didn’t really pray of, how much more the good things?”

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