How to combine commitment with flexibility in a time of change

The fifth type of 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 a goal can help us to achieve that goal. But when everything is changing, no outcome is ever guaranteed. Being highly emotionally attached to achieving one particular outcome is then likely to make it more difficult to deal with changing circumstances, especially if the desired outcome then doesn’t happen.

The solution is to achieve the spiritual nirvana of holding two apparently opposite attitudes simultaneously: completely letting go of our emotional attachment to a particular goal, while completely retaining our absolute intention to achieve it.

That might seem impossible. But it becomes easy once we know our purpose.

Knowing our purpose brings us more energy and enthusiasm to achieve a particular goal. And if circumstances change then it becomes easier to let go of the old goal and look for new ways to achieve the same purpose — and then move forward again, enthusiastically.

This is the attitude that enabled Thomas Edison to invent the lightbulb. Each time he failed he didn’t wail, “Oh, no! I’ve failed again!” Instead he told himself:

“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 a time of churning and change, having this attitude and knowing our purpose will bring meaning to our life and work. And it will make us more adaptable: combining commitment with flexibility. Becoming antifragile.

What is your top priority right now? How easily could you adapt if you didn’t achieve it? Do you know your life 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 don’t learn to swim by reading about swimming, you also need to practice.)

Photo By Horia Varlan via

Leave a Reply