Setting flexible goals

Some view goal setting as necessary to achieving success and creating the life they want. Others consider it a source of anxiety, stress and frustration.

While goal making is not inherently positive or negative, you need to be open to  arising twists and turns to truly benefit from it.

When you wish to reach a certain destination, you identify a plan and create action steps to help you get there.

But making the path too rigid can leave you blind to unexpected opportunities and solutions.

Yesterday evening, I arrived at the Minneapolis airport through the Hubert Humphrey Terminal after attending a five-day conference in Fort Lauderdale. After the pilot landed the airplane and taxied it to the jetway, I quickly proceeded with my action plan to get home.

First, I exited the plane with my colleague/travel companion. Then we walked straight toward Baggage Claim and took the escalator down to the carousel to collect our luggage. Next, I pulled my luggage off from the carousel and began to search for my phone. I needed to call my husband Michael to see when he would arrive at the airport to drive me home. I expected him to be running late because he had to attend a class that same evening.  I thought I would wait inside the airport until he pulled up curbside for me.

I stooped down to rummage through my bag and retrieve my phone. In my peripheral vision, I noticed a man looking down at me. After a few seconds, I looked up and made eye contact. It was Michael. I was pleasantly surprised.

He had arrived early at the airport and parked his car. He was standing at the top of the escalator when my colleague and I walked right by him to get to Baggage Claim. For kicks, he decided not to call out to us and instead followed us to the carousel, where he stood next to me the entire time. It took me a while to notice him because I was overly focused on my pre-conceived action plan.  I didn’t expect him to show up where and when he did.

If I had not let go of my action plan (my sub goals), I would have kept searching for my phone to make the telephone call. But when I took time to observe what was happening in the moment, I was able to adapt. This experience reminded me of the following:

Be flexible and fluid in how you set and achieve your goals. Rigid action steps can leave you unresponsive to changing circumstances.

When you set your goals, stay open to unexpected opportunities. You obtain the most reliable information while you’re working on a project, not before you start it.

Be willing to question and modify your plan. Don’t blindly follow a plan that is no longer grounded in reality. Explore, improvise and innovate.

A plan is just a road map. You might have detours and short cuts along the way. It doesn’t mean you won’t get there; you could just get there later or earlier, using a modified path.

Savor the process without getting too tied to the action plan. Step back, check in, re-evaluate, and get some perspective.  Examine the big picture. It’s okay to reshape or forego your goals when they no longer resonate with you.

Use your goals to help you channel your energy and guide you in the right direction.  But don’t get so carried away with goal setting that it severely limits the possibilities or stops you from exploring viable options.


# # #

Photo by: Angie Torres