It can be stressful, right?

You’ve pictured in your mind 100 times how everything is going to happen.  First I’ll do this, then I’ll go there, and last I’ll do that other thing.  In that order, at those locations, according to this schedule.

But it doesn’t always work out that way.

This is stressful — because suddenly the image in your mind is being dashed to pieces.  Will you still reach your goal?  Can it still be done?


Some Goals Involve Stress… But You Don’t Have to Pile on More

It’s a given that some goals come with stress.  It takes dedication and hard work to get there.

So why are you adding more stress worrying about the exact details of how to go from A to Z?

There are multiple driving routes to any destination.  You can take the freeway, you can avoid tolls, you can take surface streets, you can avoid a certain neighborhood.

Sometimes there are unforeseen obstacles that prevent us from taking our planned route.  We can’t always control that.  But don’t give up on your goal; you just have to give yourself permission to reach your goal another way.

I call this being flexibly rigid.


The Goal Doesn’t Change

The goal is anything you want to accomplish.  Your goal might be to switch careers.  It might be to make X thousand dollars per year.  It might be to learn to play guitar.

Be rigid about your goal.  Don’t give up because the path doesn’t look exactly like you pictured it.

What you can be flexible about is when and how you reach that goal.  This will keep your stress level from being elevated when circumstances are beyond your control.

To continue the driving example, let’s say your destination is your friend’s house.  You are a few blocks away when you see there is construction blocking your normal route.

At this point, most people start stressing out (or at least getting frustrated) because their plans were thrown off.  But the goal stays rigid — you aren’t going to give up on going to your friend’s house.  You’ll be flexible and take a detour, even if it takes a little bit longer.

Your goal stayed rigid, but how and when you reached it changed.  And the goal was still accomplished.


Give Yourself Permission to be Flexible

If you decide ahead of time that there are different paths to reach your goal, it’s not stressful when an obstacle appears.  You simply go around it.

The driving example is somewhat trivial, but this concept applies to long term goals as well.

Your goal might be to become the CEO of a company.  Or to donate a certain amount of money.  Or to build your dream home, or learn a language.

All of those things take time.  And inevitably, things won’t go the way you want them to.

But your attitude determines your stress level.  Be rigid about the goal; be flexible about how you get there.

Your application got rejected?  Time for a detour to get some resume and interview coaching.  Apply again.

Learning Japanese is harder than you thought?  Time for a detour for intensive study on the basics.  Keep practicing.

Never abandon your goal.  Give yourself permission to reach that goal late (or early).

It’s okay to become a CEO by starting your own company instead of climbing the corporate ladder like you always imagined you would.

It’s okay to hit that mile time a week later than you hoped.

Don’t let perfectionism get in the way.  Just make sure you reach that goal!


Be Like a Pole Vault Pole

That’s the best physical analogy I can think of.  In the pole vault, the pole is flexibly rigid.  It bends when it needs to, but its goal is to straighten out.

Why does that work?  Because the pole was designed with flexibility in mind.  If you tried to vault with a completely rigid stick, it wouldn’t work.  It can’t bend under pressure, and in some cases it would snap.

In the same way, you must design your approach with flexibility in mind.  Yes, have a plan.  But give yourself permission to change that plan if circumstances change.

Be flexibly rigid, and not only will you reach your goals, you’ll be less stressed along the way.


What are you being rigid about right now?  Could being flexible on the how or when make you less stressed as you work toward your goal?  Leave a comment below!