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 goal can help us to achieve it. But when everything is changing, no outcome is ever guaranteed. Now a strong emotional attachment to a particular goal can become a disadvantage if it makes it difficult for us to adapt changing circumstances.

Rather than giving up all hope of ever achieving anything, we can address this if we learn to do two apparently opposite things: completely let go of our emotional attachment to a particular goal, at the same time as completely retaining our intention to achieve it.

This is easy when we know our purpose.

When we know our purpose then if circumstances change we can easily let go of our previous goal and look for new goals that achieve the same purpose. And when we know the purpose of a goal then that will bring us extra energy and enthusiasm to pursue the goal more strongly, which will make us more likely to achieve it. 

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!” 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 us extra energy, enthusiasm, and meaning in our work and in our personal life. It will enable us to combine commitment with flexibility. And when circumstances change then knowing our purpose, and combining it with this key attitude, will enable us able to find more options to move forward to achieve the same purpose.

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

What is your number one priority today? If something made that impossible to achieve, how easily would you be able to shrug it off and move to another goal? How clearly do you know your life’s purpose?

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

You can sign up to daily posts here.

You can buy the book here and the workbook here.

(And remember: you can’t learn to swim just by reading about swimming, you also need to do the practice.)

Photo By Horia Varlan via

Leave a Reply