Understanding this comes in four stages.
The first is to realise that it is not just our own lives that are becoming more difficult to predict and control but the whole world. Massive changes are happening in technology, politics, society, and the environment — so any project that anyone starts out on might turn out differently from how we expected. It’s not just us.
Accepting this allows us to let go of our emotional attachment to achieving a specific outcome and yet still do our best to achieve it. It frees us like Thomas Edison, inventor of the lightbulb, to say:
“I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work”
The second stage is to realise that this approach will be most useful when we know who we are and who we want to become: when we know our purpose and values and what a worthwhile life looks like for us. Then we can respond to the unexpected with focus and flexibility. Or as Zig Ziglar put it:
“When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.”
The third stage is to realise that ten years ago we did not have the skills we have today. The skills we have now arose directly from the challenges we faced in the past. So the so-called ‘challenges’ we face today are actually opportunities for us to become the kind of person we want to become. So if we are clear on our purpose and values then we can choose which opportunities we engage with (and there are ten types to choose from).
This brings our final insight: to realise that we are not just human beings but human becomings. Nothing around us is fixed or certain. Our only choice is whether we attempt to become, or not to become, the people who we truly, uniquely are.
In this time of change, new opportunities are emerging all the time. And if we have the tools to find those opportunities, choose the one that matters most to us, and inspire ourselves and other people to long to make it happen then we can be confident that we will be able to find a new way forward, no matter what happens.
Then this time of change truly becomes an opportunity: to understand ourselves better and become who we most want to become.
So don’t be afraid to fail, choose to grow.
Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.
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(And remember: you don’t learn to swim by reading about swimming, you also need to practice.)