One of the greatest challenges to success in business is to learn how to stay focused on your goals while remaining flexible enough to adapt to needed change.
I am a big believer in creating and executing S.M.A.R.T. goals and designed a very specific strategic plan to achieve them, it is equally important to remain open and flexible along the way. As a business owner, if you look back at most of your defining moments, or the pivotal events that transformed your life, I bet most were unplanned and happened unexpectedly. Life is a mystery; you never know what might show up and you can’t be so myopic that you miss opportunities and solutions you couldn’t have even fathomed before.
Murphy’s Law and the T-shirt Philosophy
You know ol’ Murph right? The oh-too familiar friend who always seems to show up at your party at the most embarrassing and worst-possible times. Well Murphy lives to teach us this: If something can go wrong, it will. Don’t be too attached to the route you first charted, as you will undoubtedly be reevaluating and readjusting all along the way.
Imagine being at the top of a triple black diamond (most extreme) ski run and your goal is to get to the bottom of the mountain where there is a warm fire and hot cocoa. If you just ski straight down, which seems like the most logical direction, you probably won’t end up with all your limbs intact–certainly not with your skis still strapped on–when you reach those final yards. You’re going to have to zig, zag, bob and weave your way all the way down. You might not look too graceful, you might fall (repeatedly) and you might be fearful all the way down (maybe even screaming like a 4-year-old girl)! But if you are focused on the goal (getting to the bottom, warm fire and hot cocoa), and are constantly ready to adjust to each new visible obstacle, you’ll find your reward waiting for you at the bottom of the slope.
Then there is the T-shirt philosophy—Stuff (you pick your word) Happens… so be ready to deal with it.
An old military axiom says,
“No plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.”
After the successful D-Day invasion of Normandy in WWII, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was asked about the detailed planning process that went into the invasion. He said,
“The plans were useless, but the planning was indispensable.”
In an interview with Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems, he said,
“When you start and build a business, you have to throw out all assumptions every three weeks.”
Just as a business never goes according to the initial business plan, neither does the plan for your life. Don’t get too entrenched in it having to be or go a certain way. Be flexible, have a vision and an outcome in mind, but remain wide-eyed about what might show up to accelerate your ride, and open to the various paths that can get you there.
Goal achieving is a delicate balance between planning and improvisation.
Deal or No Deal?
You never know what’s in the next suitcase…
In an interview with leadership and management guru Ken Blanchard, he said: “Life is what happens to you when you are planning to do something else.” Ah, so true.
Remain flexible—Stress and success constraints are caused when people are too fixed and rigid in their beliefs about how things should be. Learn to bob and weave. Realize it’s OK to say, “I changed my mind.”
Reflect on when you might have been too rigid on your goals in the past, even when they were no longer important to your now-greater future. And remember this lesson as you walk into the great unknown of your new year and new decade. It is possible that a great unexpected miracle is around the next corner; keep yourself open and flexible to the possibilities.