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 goal can help us to accomplish it. But when everything is changing, no outcome is ever guaranteed. Then being highly attached to a 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 simultaneously holding two apparently opposite attitudes: completely letting 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 know our purpose.

Once we understand our own purpose then we gain more enthusiasm to achieve a particular goal. And if circumstances change then we can easily look for new ways of achieving the same purpose. Then we move forward again, enthusiastically.

This is the attitude that enabled Thomas Edison to invent the lightbulb. Every 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 your purpose will be invaluable. It will bring meaning to your life and work and it will help to make you more adaptable and 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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