How do you react when something changes, and you had no control over it? For example, maybe a friend changes their mind about what you were planning to do together, or your doctor or dentist retires, or a restaurant loses the reservation that you were so careful to make in advance. These kinds of things probably happen to all of us, more often than we realize.
When Sara Zeff Geber sent me her book, Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers, I was immediately drawn to the chapter on adaptability and flexibility. There, she makes the case that as we single people grow older, we need to learn to be more adaptable, because things are going to be changing (including our bodies!) whether we like it or not. It seems to me, though, that the ability to roll with the punches is important to people of every marital status and every age.
The chapter includes a quiz to assess your level of adaptability. Although the quiz is not scientifically validated, I found it fascinating. Reading it really helps you to think about the different ways a person could react to unanticipated changes, and to look hard at your own ways of reacting.
I am so very grateful to Dr. Geber (she has a PhD in Counseling and Organizational Behavior) for allowing me to share the entire quiz with you. I’ll do that now, and then I’ll tell you more about my own reactions at the end.
Change & Adaptability Quiz
Directions: Choose the letter that best describes how you would feel or act in the following situations:
- Your next-door neighbors just put their house on the market. In addition to feeling sad that they are leaving, what else do you feel?
A. Shocked that they would abandon the neighborhood and the house they call home
B. Very concerned that the new neighbors might be noisy or careless about their property
C. A little anxious, but ready to welcome the new people when they move in
D. Excited about having new people on the block
- A new colleague was just hired to work on your team. What do you do?
A. Keep interacting only with the old team members, whose personalities and roles you know
B. Ignore her until she asks for your guidance or advice
C. Welcome him cordially and then leave him alone
D. Welcome her, ask how you can help her feel included, offer to show her around the building, ask her to share lunch
- The city is doing street repairs and you will need to find a new route for your daily walk. How do you feel? What do you do?
A. Angry that your routine was disrupted. You stop walking until the repairs are finished
B. Somewhat discombobulated because you don’t know where to walk while the repairs are under way. You stop walking for a few days, finally finding a new route
C. Motivated to find a new route. You immediately do so
D. Excited that you will now get to experience new sights and activities during your walk (of course you probably didn’t walk the same route every day to begin with)
- A new supermarket with a reputation for excellent produce and competitive prices has just moved into town. You…
A. Ignore it and keep on shopping at the same store where you have always shopped. It has served your needs fine and you believe in loyalty
B. Go once to check it out, but return to your old store because there you know where everything is
C. Check out the new store immediately to determine which you prefer now that you have options
D. Embrace the new store completely, shopping there exclusively for six months and encouraging all your friends to do that same. You want to make sure the new store succeeds, giving you permanent options
- You are doing an important task with a self-imposed deadline. A friend calls to share some important news and is eager to get your feedback. You…
A. Ignore the ringing phone, listen to the message, go back to your task
B. Ignore the ringing phone, listen to the message, call your friend back immediately to make an appointment to chat later
C. Answer the phone, determine that the task can wait fifteen minutes and listen to the friend’s news, giving her as much feedback as you can, but cutting the call short to return to the task
D. Answer the phone, determine that the task can wait, have a forty-five minute chat with your friend
6. You are waiting at the gate to board your flight to Europe. The gate agent announces they have changed aircraft and everyone will need a new seat assignment. When it is your turn to talk to the agent and get your seat, you…
A. Express your distress about the aircraft switch and ask to have your same row and seat
B. Express your concern that you may not get the aisle seat you had reserved and ask to be given a seat as similar as possible to the one you had originally reserved
C. Ask the agent what’s available on the new plane and select a new seat from the options you are given
D. Take whatever new seat the agent assigns you, looking forward to meeting your new seatmates
7. Your doctor has just given you a diagnosis of high blood pressure and advised you to purchase a blood pressure cuff, measure your bp twice a week, and cut your salt intake to one teaspoon per day. You are most likely to…
A. Ignore the warning, tell no one, and continue your lifestyle as before
B. Think about the advice for a few months, then begin to share the information with a few close friends or spouse and start looking at cuffs in pharmacies
C. Purchase the cuff right away, put it in a nearby drawer for regular use, and begin slowly using less salt.
D. Purchase the cuff at a pharmacy on the way home from the doctor’s office, set it up in the bathroom for regular use; upon arriving home, dump out all salt shakers, resolve to buy no more packaged foods
- A friend offers you last-minute tickets to an event he knows you will enjoy. You had made plans to answer some emails that evening and watch two new TV shows you had recorded. You…
A. Thank him and tell him it is too late to change your plans for that evening
B. Thank him and tell him you will take the tickets only if you are his last resort
C. Thank him, accept the tickets and hurry home to at least get the email done before the show
D. Thank him and eagerly accept the tickets, immediately calling a companion to accompany you. The heck with the email; it can wait
9. You arrive with a friend at a restaurant on a Saturday evening, only to discover they have no record of the reservation you made a week ago. Now they have no table for you and a waiting list that is already lengthy. You…
A. Get upset and show them the evidence on your phone that you called them a week ago
B. Sigh, take a place on the waiting list and sit in the bar to await a table
C. Let your friend decide what to do
D. Turn to your friend and say “now we can try that new place down the block”
- Your dentist has just retired and sold his practice to a young dentist you have never met. You…
A. Are sad and upset that he has abandoned you and fearful that you will never find another dentist you trust
B. Are upset that you will now have to find a new dentist. You go two years without seeing any dentist at all, finally asking for referrals from others
C. Are somewhat dismayed at this turn of events, but immediately start asking for referrals for someone your friends like and trust
D. Send a congratulatory note to your old dentist and look forward to finding a new dentist – maybe the one who bought the practice. He’s probably up to date on all the latest dental technology
- You are out with a few friends for dinner. The plan was to have an early dinner, then see a movie at the nearby cinema. However, it’s a warm and beautiful evening and one friend suggests you abandon the movie idea and go to a nearby park for a walk and to watch the sunset. You respond by…
A. Saying no, you prefer to keep the original plan; you are programmed for a movie no matter how spectacular the sunset promises to be
B. Telling the group you are uncomfortable changing plans at the last minute
C. Keeping silent and going along with what the rest of the group decides
D. Eagerly saying yes, thinking you can see the movie another time; beautiful evenings are to be cherished
- Just before leaving for a party, your cat/dog had an “accident” on the shirt you were planning to wear. You…
A. Call the party hostess and let her know you won’t be able to make it
B. Spend an hour getting the stain out of the clothing, putting it through a short wash cycle, drying it, ironing it, and putting it back on, arriving at the party quite late
C. Toss the shirt into the laundry basket, stain and all, putting on a different outfit and heading to the party
D. Decide you can live without the shirt, toss it in the trash, find another outfit and head to the party
Give yourself one point for every A you selected
Give yourself two points for every B you selected
Give yourself three points for every C you selected
Give yourself four points for every D you selected
Add up all your points. Your score will range between 12 and 48.
Scores close to 12 suggest that you are very resistant to change and not very adaptable (but remember that the quiz is not scientifically validated, so this interpretation is just a suggestion).
Scores close to the middle, between 24 and 36, suggest that you are moderately adaptable.
The highest scores (close to 48) suggest that you are very adaptable, that you react well to change, and that you are very spontaneous.
My own thoughts and reactions to the quiz
As you can probably tell, there is a value judgment built into the scoring. The first option (A) is always considered the worst one, indicating the least adaptability, and the last (D) is always considered the best. I think it is possible to debate some of these (especially, in some instances, whether D is really better than C). Still, overall, I think the quiz is an interesting guide to thinking about the important matter of adaptability.
I’ve actually experienced some of these exact situations described by the quiz items and I can remember my reactions. My first reaction was almost always to behave in the worst way (A), but each time, I talked myself down and ended up doing either C or D. Taking the quiz, for me, was a reminder not to succumb to my worst instincts.
Thanks again, Sara Zeff Geber, for sharing this quiz from Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers.