Be flexible 1: transform goals when life holds you back

Ladder built into side of rocky mountain leading to a retreat

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Everyone needs to be realistic when setting goals. Yet being flexible is just as important, especially when longed-for dreams have to be set aside. But don’t despair. Instead, be flexible and transform goals with creativity.

When you’ve been disappointed

Perhaps life has thrown you a curve ball, and put obstacles in your path.

Have financial or health concerns stopped you reaching important goals? Or perhaps you didn’t meet entry criteria for a course.

Seeing your hopes crash down can be disappointing. It can take a while to adjust and see a way forward.

But rather than feeling hopeless and angry, choose to see this as an opening.

Follow the motto: “Be flexible: transform your goals when life holds you back.”

Be adaptable

Consciously develop the skills of being adaptable and flexible. Because being flexible makes life a whole lot easier. You can adapt to new conditions without too much trouble.

After some initial hiccups, you can function at a reasonable level fairly soon.

Letting go of “shoulds”

If you’re flexible, you’re willing to let go of the “old ways.” You don’t hold rigid beliefs about how things “should” be. And you’re willing to find creative solutions around roadblocks ahead.

Accept lack of control

Unfortunately, you don’t always have control over changes that happen.

You may not like what’s happening, or even agree with it. But you may have to go along with it.

Being flexible lets you accept that some changes are inevitable. You flow along with what’s happening, rather than fighting it.

Fighting against the inevitable wastes energy and time. As long as the changes don’t flout your values, learning to adapt is more helpful.

Then you can focus on making the best of the situation.

In this article, we’ll focus on the work sphere. However the same ideas apply to any area of life.

So let’s compare two checkout operators, Jack and Jude.

Jack has a fixed focus

Jack’s resentful he’s stuck in what he sees as a dead-end job. He does the bare minimum to get by, and hardly interacts with customers.

After working for two years, his social skills have actually got worse. And his thinking hasn’t changed from the day he started.

All he can focus on is how unfair it is for him to be here. He sees others with better jobs who “don’t deserve them.”

But he’s never gone for another job, and won’t look at study options.

He seems unwilling or unable to see he has choices. And he refuses to generate possible options for himself.

Inflexible thinkers miss opportunities

Jack could be seen as an inflexible thinker, with a fixed focus.

He finds it hard to budge from his beliefs about his situation. He has strong ideas about what life “should” be like.

But he’s not willing to take any steps to make that happen, so he’s missing out on opportunities around him.

And unfortunately, inflexible thinkers often miss out on experiences that could lead to personal growth. 

Jude has a growth focus

Jude, on the other hand, does see his job as an opportunity.

He relishes talking to people from different backgrounds. And he likes to send them out happier than when they came in.

So he’s honing his social and influencing skills all the time. He’s also learning all he can about the retail trade from his managers.

Like Jack, retail wasn’t Jude’s first choice of job. He wanted to be a teacher, but didn’t get into a course of study.

But he’s resilient enough to be willing to compromise. He’s working to get to where he wants to be, even if it’s in a roundabout way.

Be flexible: transform your goals

Jude is an example of someone who’s flexible and willing to transform his goals, rather than stick to his old ideas. He knows the skills he’s learning will transfer to other areas.

For example, he could climb the retail chain in his current company. That would let him transfer his managerial skills to other companies.

He could even teach retail skills in community adult education classes.

Who knows?

With experience, he could branch into other careers. He could eventually do teacher training and work in schools.

So this job represents a valuable learning opportunity to Jude. He can be flexible and creative in his thinking.

He’s transformed his goals to take advantage of what’s available to him.

Opportunities disguised as “failures”

So opportunities often come disguised as “failures.”

There’s a strong chance Jude will reach his goal of teaching one day. Just not in the way he initially expected. And that’s OK.

Life’s like that, full of twists and turns. Every path you take can offer useful opportunities.

Even if you’re blocked from one goal, new choices will appear. They may be in an unexpected form.

And they may be different to what you wanted or dreamed of.

But these new choices may give insights you wouldn’t have otherwise had. And that’s where it’s vital to be flexible enough to recognise these learning experiences.  

Flexibility helps personal growth

Because being flexible in outlook helps your personal development.

Think of the experiences Jude will have compared to Jack.

Which of Jack or Jude do you think will be happier?

Who gets on better with other people?

And who seems to have a brighter future?

Who would you prefer to be, Jack or Jude?

What about you?

Are you more like Jack or Jude in real life?

Do you find it hard to change mental gears?

Do you keep wishing for what you can’t have, and overlooking what you can?

Or are you able to adapt and change according to need?

Flexibility is a skill

Any skill can be learned. So you can learn to be more flexible.

It depends on how willing you are to notice your thoughts, and how willing you are to practise adapting to different circumstances.

You may have rejected some paths that are still open to you. See if you can look at them creatively, as stepping stones to somewhere else.

They may even open up new possibilities you’ve never considered before.

Foster your flexibility

So get into the mindset of fostering your flexibility. Take every chance to practise being flexible. The more you learn to adapt, the easier it gets.

If you’re flexible, you’re more likely to:

1 Let go of old or unhelpful views of yourself, others or your future.

2 Adapt better to changes in work, personal and other spheres of life.

3 See the opportunities and possibilities of any situation.

4 Generate a range of solutions for problems.

5 Negotiate and resolve conflict more successfully.

6 Have more satisfying relationships with family, friends or colleagues.

7 Have better mental health because of less anxiety and depression.

Fixed ideas aren’t helpful

However, many people can’t or won’t adapt easily.

These inflexible people get irritated when things don’t go the way they want.

Like Jack, they may have fixed ideas of how things “should” be.

Their dislike or fear of change can make them unwilling to shift. In addition, their lack of confidence in their ability to change holds them back.

Often they churn over how unfair life is, and how hard it is for them. Yet they may not recognise that others have similar problems, but face up to their fears and make the best of whatever they’re confronted with.

Willing to change?

Are you willing to try being more flexible?

Do you want the benefits of being able to adapt more quickly?

Enrich your life, and move forward more easily when change happens.

Transform your goals when life holds you back.

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