How to combine commitment with flexibility

A cycle path swerves to avoid an unexpected phone box

A fifth type of mis-blink or mistaken thinking that people can easily fall into during times of change is called Attachment to Outcome.

When times are stable, having a strong emotional attachment to achieving a particular goal can help us to accomplish it. But when everything is changing, no outcome is ever guaranteed. In this case, being overly-attached to an outcome is likely to make it difficult to deal with changing circumstances, especially if the outcome doesn’t happen.

What we need instead is a way of letting go of our emotional attachment to a goal while retaining our absolute intention to achieve it.

One way to do that is by knowing our purpose.

When we know our purpose it matters less if circumstances change: we simply look for new ways of achieving the same purpose and move forward with whichever option works best.

This is what Thomas Edison did as he tried to invent the lightbulb. Each time he failed again he told himself:

“I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

Then he moved on to his next attempt.

In a time of churning, knowing your larger purpose and seeing each project as one way of achieving it (which might not work) will help you to let go of your emotional attachment to things that don’t turn out as you want and yet still retain the enthusiasm and emotional engagement that help you get things done. Knowing your purpose will also bring your work more meaning.

What is the number one priority you are working on right now? What will you do if you fail to achieve it? Do you know your larger purpose?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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Photo By Horia Varlan via

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