How to combine commitment with flexibility in a time of change

The fifth type of mistaken thinking we can easily fall into during a time of change is called attachment to outcome.

When times are stable, having a strong emotional attachment to a particular goal can help us to achieve that goal. But when everything is changing, no outcome is ever guaranteed. Now, a strong emotional attachment to a goal is likely to make it difficult for us to adapt if circumstances change.

But rather than giving up all hope of ever achieving anything in a time of change, the way to success is to learn to do two apparently opposite things: to completely let go of our emotional attachment to a particular goal, at the same time as completely retaining our intention to achieve it.

This ‘spiritual nirvana’ becomes easy when we know our purpose.

Knowing our purpose means that if circumstances change we can let go of our previous goal and look for new goals that achieve the same purpose. And knowing that purpose will also bring us the extra energy and enthusiasm that come from knowing the meaning of the goals we are working towards. 

This is the attitude that enabled Thomas Edison to invent the lightbulb. Each time he tried something that didn’t work he didn’t wail, “Oh, no! I’ve failed again! Boo hoo!” Instead he said:

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

And then he moved on to his next attempt.

In this time of massive churning and change, knowing our purpose will bring extra energy, enthusiasm, and meaning to our work and our life. It will enable us to combine commitment with flexibility. And if circumstances do change, then combining purpose with this key attitude will enable us able to find more options to move forward to achieve the same purpose.

All of this is another step towards becoming antifragile: able to use change to become stronger and more valuable.

What is your number one priority today? If a change in circumstances made that impossible to achieve, how easily would you be able to shrug it off and move to another goal? Do you know your life’s 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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