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 it. But when everything is changing, no outcome is ever guaranteed. This means that being highly attached to one particular outcome is likely to make it difficult to deal with changing circumstances, especially if the desired outcome 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 achieving 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 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 of achieving the same purpose — 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 be invaluable. It will bring meaning to our life and work. And it will help to make us more adaptable and antifragile.

What is the top priority you are working on 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.

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Photo By Horia Varlan via

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