What to do when you go off course

When you set a goal, or plan a task or project, it is important to have a clear vision of the outcome. Visualisation, written goals, SMART outcomes and Well-formedness are all aspects of this same principal. Create the future in detail and then have a plan that takes you there.

Many of us who set out with a mission find that the reality is very different from the plans. Problems get in the way, costs spiral, a pandemic breaks out or even a war! It is no wonder that many people give up entirely on their goals because they go off course.

A core part of Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) aa set of are it’s ‘presuppositions’. These are a set of guidelines that practitioners use to help them be more effective in their lives. One of these presuppositions reads:

‘The person with the greatest flexibility wins the outcome’.

The important thing to remember about NLP presuppositions is that they don’t necessarily have to be true. They just make life easier if you ‘believe’ them to be true.

When you can’t get the job you deserve

A recent client of mine left a senior role in an international corporation. He wanted a change and he believed that he would be able to just slip into a new role at the same level or higher.

Weeks turned into months and he found himself without a job, living on his capital, and feeling a failure. He was adamant that he would not take a lower paid job, so he continued to tread water, looking for his new career break.

When a job opened up to him in the local office of a smaller operation, I suggested it might be time to swallow his pride and apply. I reminded him of the presupposition of flexibility. He almost didn’t do it, but at the last minute he put in an application and he got the job.

To his surprise, although the pay was lower, he was actually happier than he had ever been in this job because his employer appreciated him more. And guess what? Within a year of taking on the role he was promoted to the head office in a role more senior than he had held before.

Cruise ships often go off course

Flexibility is about being open to options and to not getting the outcome quite as you expect. Have the vision, do the work, and adjust the course. Like a ship on a voyage, you sometimes go off course. You may have to avoid the rough weather, avoid other ships and even put in at unplanned ports along the way. Rarely does a ship not reach its destination without disruption.

All the time that new options are available and new choices can be made, you are also having new experiences and learning new things. This can be incredibly empowering. There is a synergy in the variety of experiences that can create an outcome even greater than the original.

So plan your goals, set your intention, and be prepared to adjust your course when the winds demand it.

Robert Sanders is a therapist and life coach, supporting people in their present and helping them create their future.