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 goal can help us to accomplish it. But when everything is changing, no outcome is ever guaranteed. This means that being overly-attached to a particular 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 then move forward with whichever option works best.

This is what Thomas Edison did as he worked to invent the lightbulb. Every 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 and change, this attitude will be invaluable. And if you know your larger purpose and can see each project as one way of achieving it (which might not work) this 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? How flexible would you be if you ‘failed’ to achieve it? Do you know your life 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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