Your work isn’t over once you’ve written a plan for accomplishing your life goals. As I said there, “The most important aspect to any plan is the flexibility to change.” This philosophy is critical. A long-term plan will not help you if you do not allow yourself the flexibility to make changes as you go.
Having a plan is great and all, but remember, life is complicated. You are always getting new information, and the circumstances are ever-changing. The ability to be flexible is paramount. Flexibility is not about flip-flopping or even changing your mind. It is about allowing yourself and your plan to adapt to a continually evolving environment to ensure success in accomplishing your goals.
Flexibility is hard. People don’t like the uncertainty of change. Learning to be flexible takes discipline. Once mastered, you can apply it to achieving success in all aspects of your life.
Flexibility is the extent to which a person can cope with changes in circumstances and think about problems and tasks in novel, creative ways. This trait is used when stressors or unexpected events occur, requiring a person to change their stance, outlook, or commitment.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when addressing your ability to be flexible:
5 ways to improve your flexibility
Getting good at being flexible requires some trial and error. Please don’t force it. Just practice good judgment that favors your goals and happiness, the flexibility will come.
Planning is just goal setting. Goals also change. When a primary life goal changes, you need to rethink the steps in achieving that goal and take time to contemplate the best actions.
Sometimes, the best step to take is a spontaneous one. Living in the moment and just doing what feels right without overthinking the benefits or consequences can often lead to the most rewarding experiences and memories. If a spontaneous decision is going to lead to disaster, you will probably have an idea about that possibility before jumping in, so hopefully, you will also intuitively make the best spontaneous decision.
Spontaneity gets more comfortable as you gain life experiences. This is because you gain more comfort in your decision-making. Making decisions on-the-fly is a valuable skill in all aspects of life, and it is a skill that pays to have when flexibility is the goal.
I discuss decision-making skills in great detail in Chapter 4 of Exponential Happiness. The principles I share with you there will help you make on-the-fly decisions as well as more long-term decisions.
“Go mode” is not the default. There are times when we will stall out. The plan will take a backseat to the realities of our life. We all have obligations with friends, family, work, and community that can slow down and even alter the course of our own lives. That is ok, that is life, and you can celebrate the slow times as well.
But we can’t just sit around the campfire and sing Kumbaya forever. If we did that, eventually, the fire would run cold, and someone would have to chop more firewood. The action steps that you will write down for accomplishing your life goal while reading Chapter 2 of Exponential Happiness are like the wood for your Life Plan’s fire. You always have to be gathering more wood, or the fire runs out.
When you find yourself stagnating, or feeling like you’re not getting anywhere in your life’s ambitions, it is time to make some assessments. Try to identify the reason or reasons why you are not making progress.
Example questions to ask yourself if you are stagnating
If you can identify the place or places in your life that are not helping you rise to the occasion, then it is time to make some changes. Change, especially worthwhile change, can be challenging to make in the beginning.
If you are in your final year of university and realize that you need a drastic change in your studies that will delay graduation, that is a tough decision. But isn’t it better to make it now than to graduate with a degree which only opens doors which will make you unhappy?
Similarly, how long do you want to be in the comfort of the steady job getting you nowhere?
Changing your social group may feel impossible, but there are always ways in which you can alter your daily routines, extracurricular activities, or surroundings so that you become exposed to new people and ideas.
Change often appears to be a sudden thing to outside people, but to you, this is a process that can, and sometimes should take quite a while to implement. After identifying that a change needs to come, you can spend a significant time seeking out the adjustments that make the most sense. It is good to investigate options, but don’t let the abundance or lack of apparent possibilities hold you back from making a change once you know you need one.
If you find that the change you made was not the best, that is fine, because then you get to make another change and will be all that much more well-prepared to choose wisely. This iterative learning process is a natural part of life and will come back into play later when we go into a more in-depth discussion regarding decision-making.
Keep in mind that though flexibility is a crucial characteristic of achieving your goals, it is not a skill you can perfect overnight. Becoming flexible requires discipline. Do your best in affording yourself flexibility when you can do so.
Most importantly, remember: a bad plan is better than no plan, and the most important part of any plan is **the flexibility to change.
Check out my book Exponential Happiness for loads more details on this and other topics to help you in your pursuit of happiness.
If you’re not yet ready to dive into a book, then please leave me a comment below with any questions you have, and I will be happy to advise you the best I can directly!
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