Understanding this comes in four stages.
The first is to realise that it is not just our own lives but the entire world that is becoming more difficult to predict and control. Massive changes are happening in technology, politics, society, and the environment — so any project that anybody begins is likely to turn out differently from the way they expected. It’s not just us, it’s everything.
Accepting this enables us to let go of our emotional attachment to achieving a specific outcome and yet still do our best to achieve it. Then, if things don’t turn out in the way we expected, it becomes easier to move on to our next attempt to create whatever matters most to us. This is the attitude that enabled Thomas Edison to invent the lightbulb: “I have not failed,” he said, “I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”
The second stage is to realise that if we can’t rely on the outside world to turn out as we expect then it becomes more important than ever to give ourselves the internal stability and guidance we need. The more deeply we know who we are and who we most want to become, the more deeply we will understand our own purpose and values and what a worthwhile life looks like to us, and the more we then will be able to respond with focus, flexibility, and enthusiasm, no matter what happens. Then, as Zig Ziglar said, “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 today arose directly from the challenges we faced in the past. So the ‘challenges’ we face today are actually opportunities for us to become whoever we most want to become — and we get to choose how we respond. This puts us back in control. And the clearer we are about our personal priorities (from stage two), the more easily we will be able to choose the opportunities that inspire us most.
This brings us to our fourth insight: the realisation that we are not just human beings we are human becomings. We are not the same people today as we were when we were six, 16, or 26 years old. We are always changing. The only choice we have is how hard we try to become what matters most to us, the person we most want to become.
In this time of change, no-one can predict what is going to happen. The only thing that is certain is that the future will be created by the people who felt most inspired to make it happen.
So don’t be afraid to fail, choose to grow — and create the future you most want.
Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.
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(And remember: you can’t learn to swim just by reading about swimming, you also need to do the practice.)