How to combine commitment with flexibility

A 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 achieving a particular goal can help us to accomplish it. But when everything is changing, no outcome is ever guaranteed. This means that being highly attached to a particular outcome is likely to make it difficult to deal with changing circumstances, especially if the outcome then doesn’t happen.

The solution is to achieve the ‘spiritual nirvana’ of simultaneously holding two apparently opposite attitudes: to completely let go of our emotional attachment to achieving a particular goal at the same time as completely retaining our absolute intention to achieve it.

This might seem impossible. But it becomes easy if we define our own purpose.

Once we know our purpose then we can hold the absolute intention of achieving a particular goal. And if circumstances change then it doesn’t matter so much: we can simply look for new ways of achieving the same purpose. Then we move forward again.

This is the attitude that enabled Thomas Edison to invent the lightbulb. Each time he failed (yet again!) he didn’t say “Oh, no! I’ve failed again!”, 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 your purpose will be invaluable. It will bring meaningto your life and work and it will help to make you antifragile.

What is the top 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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