Having taught yoga for many years I’ve often had students who were really strong, yet had no flexibility and struggled with a simple forward bend. Then I also had students who were like a bendy toy… yet had very little strength. 

From a physical perspective, strength without flexibility results in soft tissue tears, sprains or strains and postural challenges. On the other hand, flexibility without strength results in joint instability….and flexibility is what I want to talk about in this mailer because a person with the most flexibility of behaviour has the most influence on others. This is the law of requisite variety.

It was Ross Ashby, a pioneer British cyberneticist, and psychiatrist, who originally formulated his law of requisite variety in the context of regulation in biology. In other words how organisms are able to adapt to their environment.

So what is requisite variety and more importantly, how does it relate to you and your life?

Basically, it means that in order to deal properly with the diversity of problems the world throws at you, you need to have a repertoire of responses to deal with those problems.  Or another way of putting that is the most flexible person in any particular system or relationship will have the most influence on the others involved and the relationship as a whole.’

Aha, you might say, ‘I have a manager, who is totally inflexible (and I mean in his or her behaviour or communication not in whether they can touch their toes), and yet he still has the most influence on us at work.’ That may be true. And it will be true for any hierarchical system, whether it is the military or politics, or if you live in a society that has a caste system. So I’ll modify this statement and say, amongst peers, the most flexible person will have the greatest influence on others. So when your manager is attending a department head meeting with his peers and equals, does he have the most influence there? And have you ever been promoted into someone else’s place for showing more initiative? I’m sure you have! That is the power of flexibility at work.

You’ve probably heard the saying, ‘if you keep doing what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you’ve always got.’ So let’s take flexibility and the law of requisite variety in the context of you and what you want to achieve in your life.

If you’ve set yourself a goal and you only have one pathway to achieve that goal, then you may or may not achieve and attain your goal. However, if you create numerous pathways to achieve that goal then you certainly have a better chance of being successful. And so it is in all areas of your life whether that be flexibility in the way you communicate and relate to others, or being able to adapt your behaviour to meet a myriad of situations.

And this is where NLP (neuro linguistic programming) comes in because it’s really all about you increasing your flexibility, in your behaviour and the way you communicate. By increasing your flexibility you dramatically increase the level of influence you have on other people around you, on situations and the circumstances that you may find yourself in.

So let me share a short story I came across that illustrates the power of flexibility….

Once upon a time, there was a spring who lived happily and safely inside a pen. Although he heard many noises coming from outside, he lived believing that outside his world inside the pen, there was nothing good. Even just to think about leaving his pen made him so scared that he was quite content to spend his life compacting and stretching himself again and again inside that tiny space.

However, one day, the ink ran out, and when the pen's owner was busy changing it, there was an accident. The spring was flung through the air and landed in the toilet drain, well out of sight. Terrified, and cursing his bad luck, the spring was flushed through the pipe after pipe, each time thinking it might be his end. During the journey, he did not dare open his eyes out of pure fear. Nor did he ever stop crying. Swept away by the water, he traveled on and on and on, until he ended up in a river. When the river current lost its force, and the spring could see that things had calmed down a bit, he stopped crying and listened all around him. Hearing birdsong and the wind in the trees, he felt encouraged to finally open his eyes. What the spring saw was the pure, crystal waters of the river, the rich green rocks of the riverbed, and all kinds of fish of many colors, whose skin seemed to dance under the sunlight. Now he understood that the world was much greater than the space inside the pen and that there had always been many things outside, waiting to be enjoyed.

After spending a while playing with the fish, he went over to the riverbank and then moved on to a field of flowers. There he heard weeping. He followed the sound, which took him to a lovely flower that had been flattened by a rabbit and could no longer stand up straight. The spring realized that he could help the flower, so he offered to be his support. The flower accepted and slipped through the middle of the spring. There they lived happily together. And they would always laugh when remembering how the spring used to think that all there was to life was being a sad and fearful spring.

Remember - flexibility increases choice in all areas of your life! 

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