Goals: Remain Flexible At All Times

02/03/2023by dang tin0

Remain Flexible At All Times

“When I have finally decided that a result is worth getting, I go ahead on it and make trial after trial until it comes.” Thomas Edison

It is in the nature of things that some people will be more successful and happier than others. Some people will make more money, have better lives, enjoy greater fulfillment and satisfaction, have happier relationships and contribute more to their communities. Others will not.

The Menninger Institute of Kansas City conducted a study not long ago to determine what qualities would be most important for success  and happiness in the 21st century. They concluded, after extensive research, that the most important single quality that you can develop, in a time of rapid change, is the quality of “flexibility.”

The opposite of flexibility is “rigidity.” The opposite of flexible thinking is fixed or mechanical thinking. The opposite of approaching life with an open mind is to react automatically and predictably in every situation. The opposite of flexibility is an unwillingness to change in the face of new information or circumstances. The quality of flexibility is therefore essential if you want to be, do and have more than the average person.

The Speed of Change

Today, perhaps the most important factor affecting your life is the speed of change. We are living in an age where change is taking place at a faster rate than ever before in human history. And if anything, the rate of change is increasing, year-by-year.

Change today is not only faster, but it is also discontinuous, not following a straight line but starting, stopping and going off in unpredictable directions. Change is coming at us from all sides and in so many different ways that it is often impossible to anticipate what might happen next.

By its very nature, change is unpredictable, often forcing us to scrap our very best plans and ideas overnight as the result of a completely new and unexpected development coming from a new and unexpected direction. As a result, we have to remain flexible in our thinking and in our possible courses of action.

A Major Cause of Stress

Change causes enormous stress for people who are fixed or rigid in their beliefs about how things “should be.” They fall in love with what they are doing, with their current methods and processes, and are unwilling to change, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. Don’t let this happen to you.

The only real question you should be asking about what you are doing is, “Does it work?” Is it achieving the end results desired? Based on the current situation, is this the best course of action? The only measure of the rightness or wrongness of a particular decision or course of action is its effectiveness in accomplishing the result desired, or achieving the goal you have set. Keep asking, “Does it work?”

Three Factors Driving Change

There are three factors driving change today, each of them multiplying times each other to increase the speed of change.

The first change factor is the explosion of information and knowledge, in every area of our lives. One new discovery or piece of information in a competitive marketplace can change the dynamics of your business overnight. A popular product or service, or major industry, can be rendered obsolete by a new product or service that achieves the same result faster, better, cheaper or easier than something else.

A critical news event, such as 9/11, a market shock, such as that caused by Wall Street revelations, a scandal in a political party or industry, can transform the thinking, actions, sales, and situation of an entire business or industry overnight.

For example, in 1989, when the Soviet Union dissolved, the Iron Curtain came down and the Cold War ended. The defense industry across America was severely shaken. Hundreds of thousands of highly trained and skilled men and women were laid off permanently. Entire industries were shut down and certain parts of the country were thrown into recession. The effects of change were overwhelming and unavoidable. Only the flexible were able to react and respond effectively.

Be Open To New Information

To remain flexible, you must be constantly open, alert to new ideas, information and knowledge that can help you or hurt you in your business, or in the achievement of your goals. One new idea can be enough to make or lose you a fortune. One idea can start you on the road to riches, or knock you off it. One piece of information, at the right time, can save you enormous amounts of time, trouble and money. Lack of that information can cost you a fortune.

All leaders are readers. It is absolutely essential that you keep current in your field. Read the magazines and publications put out by your industry. Read the best selling books in your field. Attend seminars and conferences. Join your industry associations and network with other people in your business. The power is always on the side of the person with the best and most current information.

The Tide of New Technology

The second factor driving change is the rapid growth and development of new technology. Every new piece of scientific or technical knowledge leads to a advance in technology aimed at helping people and companies get things done faster, better, cheaper or easier. And the speed of technological change is increasing every day.

The rule is that, “Whatever works is already obsolete.” A new piece of high-tech equipment put on the shelf is obsolete before it is unpacked. New technology today has a shelf life of six months before it is replaced by something that will do the job faster and cheaper. If you are not looking for ways to replace your product or service with something better, you can be assured that your competitors are staying up late at night looking for ways to do you one better and put you out of business.

Playing Leapfrog

Being in business today is like playing an endless game of leapfrog. You look for a way to leapfrog your competitor and serve your customers better, faster and cheaper. Your competitor then leapfrogs over you with a newer or better product or service. You quickly regroup and leap over your competitor with a new innovation or improvement. Your competitor then leaps over you, and the game goes on without end.

The same principle of accelerating obsolescence applies to your products, your services, your processes and especially to your sales and marketing strategies. It applies to your current advertising and methods of promotion. Whatever works, will soon stop working.

Either customers will become bored with it, your competitors will copy it, or it will no longer attract customers in the current marketplace.

Expect To Be Imitated

Not long ago, I hired an advertising agency and paid them $10,000 to develop an ad for me, which I then ran in a national newspaper. It was a powerful ad and drew a lot of good responses. We were walking around the office patting each other on the back until the following week, when a competitor came out with the identical ad that we had paid to have created, but aimed at selling his product rather than ours. Our response rate dropped by 50% and continued to fall. And there was very little that we could do.

You must be continually developing back-up plans for every aspect of your business, knowing without doubt that, whatever you are doing, it will soon stop working and will have to be replaced by something else that does.

Watch Out For the Comfort Zone

We spoke earlier about the “Comfort Zone” and how both individuals and organizations often fall into it and keep on doing the same things, over and over, whether they are working or not.

Sometimes the greatest danger to your long-term success can be short-term success. Success in any area can quickly breed complacency and a reluctance to change in response to the new realities of the marketplace. Don’t let this happen to you.

Competitive Pressures Are Unending

The third element driving change and requiring greater flexibility is competition. Your competitors, local, national and international, are more determined and creative today than they have ever been before. They are constantly looking for ways to take your customers away, steal your sales, reduce your cash flow and, if possible, put you out of business. They are aggressively selling their products or services using every argument and advantage they can possibly develop to undermine your position in the marketplace. Your competitors are aggressively using new information and technology to render you obsolete and to gain a competitive advantage.

Today, there are more companies, products, services and salespeople than there are customers or buyers for them. The competition is becoming tougher and more intense. If you want to survive and thrive in this market, you must become even more focused and determined yourself. Above all, you must be flexible.

Zero Base Everything Regularly

Earlier, I talked about the importance of “zero based thinking” in examining every part of your life and activities today. Zero based thinking is a vital tool in remaining flexible as well.

Continually ask, “Is there anything that I am doing today, that knowing what I now know, I wouldn’t get into again today, if I had to do it over?”

Look at every part of your life and business. Wherever you experience stress, resistance, or lack of success, ask the zero based thinking question. And if there is something that you would not start up again today, make plans immediately to get out of it and to channel your resources and energies where you can get better results.

Don’t let your ego cloud your judgment or your common sense. Be more concerned with what’s right rather than who’s right. You must be open to the fact that most of your decisions will turn out to be wrong in the fullness of time. Be prepared to be flexible, especially in the face of new information, technology or competition.

Three Magic Statements

There are three statements that you can learn to say, over and over, to remain flexible in turbulent times. Here they are:

The first is, “I was wrong.” Most people would rather bluff, bluster and deny rather than to admit that they were wrong. What makes the refusal to admit you are wrong even worse is when everyone around you already knows that you are wrong. You are the only one who is fooling anyone, and that one person you are attempting to fool is yourself. When you realize that you are wrong, the smartest thing you can do is to admit it quickly, solve the problem and get on with achieving the goal or result.

It has been estimated that as much as 80% of the time and energy of the key people in large companies and organizations is devoted to covering up the fact that they are wrong, and they don’t want to admit it. Many companies, small and large, have gone bankrupt because of a refusal or failure to admit an obvious mistake.

Admit That You Are Not Perfect

The second statement that you must learn to say to remain flexible is, “I made a mistake.” It is amazing how much time, energy and money is wasted because someone’s ego is so large that they will not admit they have made a mistake, even one that is obvious to everyone around them.

Once you say, “I was wrong” or “I made a mistake,” the issue is largely over. From then on, everybody can get on with resolving the problem or achieving the goal. But as long as a key person is unwilling to admit that he or she has taken the wrong course, everything comes to a stop.

We have seen this repeatedly in national politics where the failure of a single person to admit a mistake or blunder has led to tremendous waste of time and energy for everyone involved, and often, for the entire nation.

Adapt To New Information Quickly

The third statement you should learn to say quickly and easily is “I changed my mind.” If you get new information that contradicts the information upon which you made a previous decision, be prepared to admit candidly that, “I changed my mind.”

It is not a weakness or a character flaw to be wrong, to make a mistake or to change your mind. In fact, in a time of rapid change in the areas of knowledge, technology and competition, it is a mark of courage, character and flexibility to be willing to “cut your losses” quickly and practice the “Reality Principle” in everything you do.

Be willing to deal with the world as it is, rather than the way you wish it were, or the way that it might have been in the past. Face the truth, whatever it is. Be honest with yourself and everyone around you.

Remain Open to New Realities

Always be open to reevaluating your goals and objectives in the light of new information, technology or competition. Based on what you now know, is this the best course of action? If it is not, what else should you do? What else could you do?

If it is a goal, and the circumstances under which you made the goal have changed dramatically, be sure that you still want it badly enough to struggle and sacrifice for it. Be willing to drop it and set a new goal if you have changed your mind, or if the goal is no longer as important to you today as it once was.

In a time of rapid change, resolve to be the first to recognize and embrace change when it occurs. Expect it as part of the normal and natural course of events. Refuse to be surprised or upset when things do not work out the way you thought they would, or should.

Be Flexible In Your Relationships

Especially, be flexible with the important people in your life – your family, your friends, your coworkers and your customers. Be open to differing points of view and different ideas. Be continually willing to admit that you could be wrong, because you often are.

One of the characteristics of the best leaders is that they are good listeners. They ask a lot of questions and take in all the information possible before making up their minds or coming to a final conclusion. They also admit failure and cut their losses quickly when they make a mistake so they can move on to bigger and better things.

The Theory of Precession

There is another aspect of flexibility that you should bear in mind for the rest of your life and career. Buckminster Fuller, the scientist and philosopher, called it the “Theory of Precession,” which does not appear in any dictionary or encyclopedia. Dr. Robert Ronstadt of Babson College called it the “Corridor Principle.”

Napoleon Hill referred to this finding by the most successful people in America by saying that, “within every setback or obstacle there lies the seed of an equal or greater opportunity or benefit.”

What this means is that, when you set a new goal for yourself, you will have a general idea of the steps you should take and the direction you should pursue. But almost inevitably, as you start off, you will run into unexpected roadblocks that make it impossible to continue in that direction. However, by some miracle, just as you reach a wall, another door of opportunity will open along the corridor to success.

Because you are flexible, you will quickly take advantage of the new opportunity and begin moving in that direction, developing that new product or service, selling into that new market or customer base. But as you move down this new corridor, you will run into another obstacle or roadblock that might again block your progress. Just as you hit this new wall or obstruction however, another opportunity will open up for you and take you down a different corridor toward your goal.

This may happen several times, with several false starts. In almost every case, you will achieve your greatest success in an area very different from what you initially thought when you started out. You will achieve your greatest business and personal successes doing things that are very different from what you had initially planned. The key is to remain flexible.

Be Both Clear and Flexible

Here is the most important rule of flexibility: “Be clear about your goal but be flexible about the process of achieving it.”

Always be open to the influence of your superconscious mind. Remain sensitive to the possibility of serendipitous and synchronous events. Be open to ideas, inspirations and inputs from other people. In the New Testament, Jesus said, “You must become like a little child if you would enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.”

One interpretation of these words is that you must remain open minded, flexible, calm, confident and curious if you want to be able to recognize new opportunities and possibilities as they open up around you on your journey toward your goal.

Resolve to remain flexible and open, no matter what happens. Remember, there is almost always a better way to accomplish any task, or to achieve any goal. Your aim should be to be alert and aware to what it might be, to find it and then to take action in that new direction as quickly as possible. This will insure that you inevitably reach your goal, sometimes in the most unexpected and surprising ways.

Remain Flexible At All Times:

1. Regularly ask yourself the question, “What do I really, really want to do with my life?” and then make sure that your current goals and activities are in harmony with your answer.

2. Be completely honest and realistic with your life and goals. Resolve to see the world as it is, not as you wish it were, or could be. What changes does this practice suggest?

3. Be willing to admit, in each area of your life where you experience stress or resistance, that you could be wrong, or that you have made a mistake. Resolve today to cut your losses wherever possible.

4. If the situation has changed, or you have new information, be willing to change your mind and make a new decision based on the facts as they exist today. Refuse to persist in a course of action that does not make good sense.

Look into each problem or obstacle you face and seek the valuable lesson or benefit it contains. Should you change your direction or course of action based on new information or experience? If so, do it now.

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