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Goals don’t always follow a straight line from creating to completion.  What do you do if you’re pursuing a treasured goal and something outside of your control (like the economy, for example) knocks you so off-track that your goal seems suddenly unachievable?

Just keep moving forward - Deiric McCann

Last week I spoke on Leadership Charisma at the HR Summit & Expo in Dubai.  While there I got to hear a talk by Adrian Gilpin, Chairman of the Institute of Human Development.  If you ever get the opportunity to hear him speak don’t pass it up – he’s a first class speaker.  He’s also author of “Unstoppable: The pathway to living an inspired life” – which I just bought and intend to review here in the next few weeks.

When things go off the rails it’s not unusual to get so frozen by worry that your goals start to look impossible and you can no longer clearly see how you’re going to get from where you are now to where you need to be.  Gilpin very accurately characterizes worrying as ‘negative goal setting’ – visualizing and focusing upon the very results you do not want to achieve.

Do something – anything!

At one stage he asked the audience to review how they approach solving crosswords puzzles. It turns out that we all follow pretty much the same approach.  Typically we first identify the corner pieces and isolate them – creating a general frame for the finished work.  Then we separate out all of the edge pieces and start to assemble those – completing the frame and creating the context for the remaining pieces.  Then we start sorting the remaining mass of pieces into obviously related groups – e.g. the red pieces, the blue pieces etc.  While working work our way through making sense of those pieces we create a catch-all pile of the ‘too difficult to consider right now’ pieces – all of those pieces that offer absolutely no clue to how they might fit the final picture (and including those pieces that look suspiciously like they might actually belong to another puzzle).

When the edge pieces have joined the four corners the resulting frame makes it easier to imagine how the overall picture might actually ultimately come together as a coherent picture.  Then, as we assemble the blue pieces, then the red pieces, then the yellow and so on, we begin to create little islands of connected pieces.  As they grow and reach out to one another pieces that are common to these little islands start to emerge and we start to see how these islands connect together, one by one – growing into an ever larger mass sitting in the middle of our frame. It’s at this stage, when the picture really starts to emerge, that we get sudden insights into how some of the pieces in the ‘too difficult to consider right now’ pile fit into the overall picture.  Suddenly your goal of making a coherent picture of a mass of incoherent pieces starts to look more possible.    What once seemed mysterious suddenly seems obvious, and the final picture almost assembles itself – building a momentum we could never have imagined when we first placed the corner pieces.

The message?

When you get stuck; when a goal stalls or you cannot seem to get your head round the ‘big picture’ then stop trying to do so.  Stop trying to figure it all in your head out and simply get started.  Beat the paralyzing power of worry by taking action.  Get yourself moving, building some momentum that gets you moving in general direction of your goal (or any direction until you’ve figured out what the ‘right’ direction is – better to zigzag your way to your goal than not to move at all).  Live in the moment and, knowing what you know, take the most logical and positive step you can at any given point in time.  Get moving – and then keep moving by taking the best step you can at any point in time, however small that step might be.  Once you achieve forward motion with the first step your second step will become more obvious – and the more steps you take the clearer the path to your final goal will become.

So what do you do when a goal stalls or something outside of your control knocks you so off-track that your goal seems suddenly unachievable?

Do the easiest thing you can that moves you in the general direction of your intended goal and trust that as your move ever more forward.  Take that first step.  Then just keep moving forward.


How do you get yourself back on track when you hit an obstacle?

Use ‘Comments’ below to share your experiences and advice



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