Strength in Flexibility

January 15th, 2014 @   -  No Comments

When the wind blows, trees are either soft and flexible, bending with it, or hard and rigid. Green trees that bend with the wind do not get carried off by it. They can experience blow after blow and still keep springing back up into position. On the other hand, even though they often appear strong on the surface, dry and hard trees can be broken or uprooted by a sufficient blow.

Similarly, when facing unexpected problems and challenges, and dealing with different personality types and changing circumstances, you have a choice to act like the flexible green trees or the hard and rigid ones. When you are willing to adapt and change your approach in line with the changing conditions, you can successfully make your way through the difficult circumstances. Like green trees, being flexible enables you to remain strong. Flexibility is a way of resistance and building resilience. By contrast, when you are too rigid, you become extremely vulnerable.

Being flexible does not mean being any less firm or committed to the results you want to achieve. Being flexible simply means:

  • You are more open to other options available to you
  • You consider options that are different from your typical or preferred approach
  • You are willing to do things differently
  • You display a positive attitude towards uncertainty and change
  • You adjust your plans in light of unanticipated problems
  • You change your approach in line with changing circumstances

When the Prophet (PBUH) was asked to renounce his message at the beginning of his mission, he was firm in his position. His answer to his uncle was clear and firm, “… if they put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left hand so that I give up this matter (the mission), I will never do until God will make it prevail or I shall die for it…” However, during the Peace Treaty of Hudaibiah, the Prophet (PBUH) showed high flexibility, unlike his companions who were opposed to some articles and wordings in the treaty. His flexibility was instrumental in the success of his mission. The years following the treaty were peaceful, and the Prophet’s message spread at an unprecedented speed across the Arabian Peninsula. The Prophet’s (PBUH) focus was on the outcome, not on the process and the wording.

On numerous other occasions, the Prophet (PBUH) changed his approach and adopted his companions’ ideas and suggestions. For example, in the Battle of the Trench, the Prophet (PBUH) adopted the suggestion of one of his companions from Persia. Digging a ditch was an unusual war tactic, not yet known in the region, and the Prophet (PBUH) not only accepted the innovative strategy, but also helped in implementing it. By taking a different approach, the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions surprised their opponents and neutralised their cavalry.

A flexible person is willing to change his approach and opinions to achieve the desired outcome without compromising his values and principles.

One of the greatest enemies of achievement and success is rigidity. Rigidity of thinking and action carries the seeds of its own destruction. We need to learn flexibility or learn to live with our disappointments.

“Don’t be too rigid, lest you be broken; don’t be too soft, lest you be squeezed.”



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