Improvise, Adapt, Overcome” is an unofficial slogan among Marines. And it’s a fitting motto for most of us in our daily lives and at work. As we encounter challenges at work, it’s important to remain flexible and find new solutions to move the company, and our careers, forward. Here are a few tips on using these important skills in your daily work.

1. Improvise

im·pro·vise (verb): create and perform spontaneously or without preparation.

  • Don’t prepare each minute of every day. Put list-making off for a day. Sometimes our habitual excessive planning gets in the way of sponieneity and seeing solutions that are right in front of us.
  • Trust your own mind and instincts. If you run into a problem, stop for a moment and think more about the questions that you’re asking—instead of trying to jump straight to the possible solutions. Ask “why..” at least 5 times and see if you can get to the root of the problem.
  • Embrace chaos as it comes and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you don’t try everything you’ll never know if you’ve found the best solution and you won’t learn. Accept that instability is normal and it won’t be so frightening.
  • Start today. Not tomorrow. Don’t write “improvise more” on your to-do list. Just start acting quicker!

2. Adapt

a·dapt (verb): make (something) suitable for a new use or purpose; modify.

  • Keep your attitude positive at all times—even when everything is descending into a depth of chaos unknown before now, keep the optimistic spirit strong. When you stay positive, you keep your mind open to possibilities.
  • Stay connected and communicate with everyone around you. Keep a list of all the major teams in your area (pre-award, post-award, legal, accounting, education, department) and when you run into an issue, look over your list of teams and decide who to contact to talk things out. Who needs to be notified? Who might have had this issue before? Who might have a good perspective? Communicate!
  • Self-reflect on issues as they arise, explore your past and pull on your experiences and cultural knowledge.
  • Always be a lifelong student—never stop learning. Adapt to the changes in your workplace by learning the new skills necessary to keep ahead of the game. No one can stay on top for long if they aren’t constantly learning and evlolving.
  • Help the one behind you by looking for ways to help your teammates cope with changes at work. One of the best ways to help yourself cope with change, is by turning around and helping your team get comfortable with the new changes as well.

3. Overcome

o·ver·come (verb): succeed in dealing with (a problem or difficulty).

  • Attack the root of the problem and stare down the eye of the storm. Sometimes when you have a challenge at work, it’s best to just simply walk right into the middle of it and roll up your sleeves. Everyone says “eat the frog” first which means—deal with the biggest problems first. Make them a priority.
  • Take it in strides and note the progress you are making each day. It may take months to get to the root of a problem, brainstorm solutions, implement changes and see results. You have to celebrate the daily successes that are getting you closer and closer to your ultimate goal.
  • Incorporate as many stress-relieving exercises as you can during the most difficult days. Get used to getting up and doing a lap around the office to stretch your legs, listen to your favorite music, or journaling at your desk during lunch. Make it a habit to manage your stress and make sure that these challenges don’t consume your life.
  • Lastly, focus on what is your realm of control. There are some things that we don’t, and never will, have control over. It’s important to identify these situations as soon as possible so that you can turn your focus and energy to things that you can change.

Additional Reading: