Paradigm Shifter #41: Over it, under it, or around it: There’s more than one way to reach a goal

Paradigm Shift

We’ve all faced obstacles on the path to our goals.  Many times, we’ll tell others that we’ve tried “everything.”  But have we, really?

While I’m not sure where this assumption comes from, there seems to be a stubborn belief that if we’re “on the right track,” then we shouldn’t have difficult and seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

But the reality is that every journey toward a goal will be fraught with a continuum ranging from dizzying successes to abject failures.  What should have worked, didn’t.  What shouldn’t have happened, did.  And where did all those unexpected twists and turns come from?!

Reaching a goal requires three things:

  1. Identifying specifically what we want to achieve.
  2. Consistently moving forward toward the goal in a manner that is both tenacious and adaptable.
  3. Celebrating the victories – and learning from the challenges.

Goal-setting seems to have achieved the greatest amount of inquiry by academic researchers as well as savvy business professionals.  Utilizing S.M.A.R.T goal setting (i.e., goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-driven, and Time-bound) is invaluable in fleshing out the true nature of our goals.

Similarly, the importance of recognizing and celebrating achievements has also received a great deal of print in magazines and across media channels.  If there isn’t a “woo hoo!” celebration after goal achievement, there might not be enough momentum and motivation to move forward toward the next goal.

Unfortunately, the implementation of tasks to achieve our goals has been the focus of a wide range of very segmented and disparate tools.  Business dashboards graphically portray the progress of individuals, teams, and the organization as a whole toward goal achievement.  CRM software keeps track of the nurturing and follow-up activities necessary to turn prospects into clients.  Stress reduction and time management techniques help us maintain focus in pursuit of a goal.

Creating synergy between these different implementation tools and techniques can be a challenge in and of itself.

But an area that is sadly lacking in the pursuit of goal attainment is the willingness to summon the courage to admit when something isn’t working in order to boldly move forward on a different (and often unknown) path.  We wonder if changing course midstream questions the level of “tenacity” needed to achieve the goal – or we celebrate our ability to “adapt” but wonder if we didn’t give the strategy sufficient time to bear fruit.

Knowing when to “stay the course” and when to change direction is the result of on-going experience and reflection.

In practice, once goal setting has been completed, there is considerable resistance to stray far from the plan.  Changes are often made cautiously and incrementally – even if a transformational overhaul is warranted.  The high degree of analysis and creativity that characterize strong goal setting seems to vanish during the implementation phase.

But, why?

If the goal is sufficiently noble, desirable, and worthwhile AND the people involved in attaining it have a strong enough personal reason to achieve it, then the paradox of being both tenacious and adaptable is almost instinctive.

  • Tenacity is the result of not only wanting to attain something, but also understanding why its attainment is so important and desirable.  A high level of belief in what we are doing may be one of the only ways to consistently move forward in the face of adversity.  We will find a way.
  • Adaptability arises from accepting that things change…fast and often without notice.  Adaptability requires a sufficient level of humility to admit when something isn’t working and, because the goal is worthwhile, discontinue doing those things that aren’t aligned with achievement of that goal.

While tenacity helps us to find a way to overcome obstacles, adaptability helps us to create new pathways to success.

Obstacles, challenges, and unforeseeable circumstances are a part of life.  But we always have the choice – IF we want to achieve something badly enough – to create and forge new paths toward the goal.  The path will most likely not be a straight line nor a downhill path.  Instead, we must build new roads to go over, under, or around the inevitable challenges that threaten the achievement of the goals that we really want.

In this age of constant, unrelenting change, maybe it’s time that we ask ourselves:  are we tenacious and adaptable enough to achieve the goals that we really want?

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to

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