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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Achieving Your Goals: Balancing Perseverance and Flexibility

To achieve your goals, you often hear that you need to persevere and pursue your goals with resolve and tenacity.  While it's certainly true that few long term goals are achieved by being lacksadasical, it's also true that, along the way, there are times when you need to be flexible and open to new ideas and possibilities.  Often, it's a matter of balancing perseverance and flexibility.

Let's take a look at the example below, which is a composite of many cases, and illustrates the importance of how balancing perseverance and flexibility can help to achieve long-term goals:

Dana had a lifelong dream of having her own clothing store.  By time she was in her early 30s, she had worked in the fashion industry, including upscale clothing stores, for several years.  At that point, more than anything, she wanted to be her own boss.

Achieving Your Goals: Balancing Perseverance and Flexibility: Dana Had a Lifelong Dream to Have Her Own Business

Her father agreed to provide the initial capital for her to start her business with the understanding that she see a business consultant first to get advice.  Her father agreed to pay for the consultant.  Initially, Dana balked at the idea of hiring a consultant because she felt she already knew what she needed to do to have a successful business.

She was ready to work hard to make her business successful.  She didn't want anyone else interfering with her ideas.  She wished she didn't have to rely on her father's money to start her business.  But she knew she couldn't do it without his help and her father wouldn't provide her with the capital to start the business unless she agreed to see the consultant.  So, she agreed reluctantly.

The consultant made recommendations that were counter to what Dana had in mind.  The consultant recommended that, before she opened her business, she should first take a continuing education course on how to start a business since she had no experience. But Dana quickly brushed this off.  He also recommended that she start small and keep her overhead low.  But Dana bristled at the idea that she would have to start small.

She felt both her father and the consultant didn't have enough confidence in her.  And, instead of following the consultant's recommendations, she plunged ahead and she sought a large space in a trendy area of Manhattan.  Never having rented commercial space before, she was shocked at the rent and that the landlord wanted a co-signer.

When her father refused to co-sign, Dana was forced to take a smaller space with lower rent.  She was somewhat deflated by this, but she felt she had no choice but to go along with it.

During the first few months, Dana was shocked at how many hours she had to put in to keep the business going.  She was more than willing to work hard, but she had little to show for it monetarily at the end of the month.  The consultant advised her that she would probably lose money the first year, but she couldn't believe how much money her business was losing.

Since her father agreed to pay the rent for the first year, she wasn't worried about losing the space, but she felt guilty about going through her father's money with nothing to show for it.  To make matters worse, she discovered that her part time sales associate was stealing money from the register, so she had to let her go.

By the second year, the business continued to lose money at an alarming rate, which Dana couldn't understand.  She had originally thought that hard work and perseverance would lead to success, but this clearly wasn't the case.

When Dana's father told her that he wouldn't foot the bill for the rent any more, Dana felt like a failure.  They had to hire an attorney to get Dana out of her commercial lease.  After settling with the landlord and closing her business, Dana felt depressed.

Dana had to move back into her parents' home because she had no money to pay rent on her apartment, which made her feel worse.  For the first month, she was so depressed that she could barely get out of bed.

By the second month, when her parents told her that she needed to get a job, she reluctantly went back to her old job.  She feared that her old boss and coworkers would see her as a failure, but everyone was very kind to her.  Even so, she could barely look anyone in the eye when she first returned.

As her depression got worse, she came to see me for therapy to begin picking up the pieces of her life.  Initially, we worked on basic coping skills because Dana was having problems just getting out of bed and getting through the day.

After a few weeks, Dana was ready to deal with her grief about losing her business.  As we explored her experiences, she was able to see that a big part of her problem was a combination of her misconception that perseverance alone would make her successful and her inflexibility to follow advice from a seasoned business consultant.

Dana realized now that there were so many things she didn't know about having her own business, and she would have benefited from taking the continuing education course that the consultant recommended.

She also realized that, contrary to her feeling that she was "a total failure," there were a lot of things that she did right:  She had a good sense of what customers wanted and her merchandise sold, but her income was still so much less than her overhead.  She realized now that she had been too stubborn to see that there was a lot more that she would have needed to know to be successful.

After several months in therapy, Dana began to recover from her loss, and she signed up for the continuing education course on how to start her own business.  She also found a business partner to share in the expenses for her next clothing store.  After taking the course, she was in a much better position to try her hand again at having her own business.

It was a humbling experience for Dana, but her new willingness to be flexible and learn from her experience contributed to her eventual success.

Perseverance Isn't Always Enough
As Dana learned, hard work and perseverance isn't always enough for you to achieve your goals.  Sometimes, you need to be flexible and compromise in order to be successful.  This isn't always obvious at the start.  Often, you don't realize the need for flexibility until you're already involved in your project.

Many people, like Dana, have strong beliefs and fixed ideas about what they want to do and how they want to do it.  Successful people learn from experience and recognize when it's necessary to either change course or make modifications to their plan.

Getting Help
If Dana's story resonates for you in a particular area of your life and you're having difficulty overcoming this problem on your own, you could benefit from seeking help from a licensed psychotherapist.

Getting Help to Achieve Your Goals

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  

I work with individual adults and couples, and I have helped many psychotherapy clients to achieve their goals.

To find out more about me, visit my web site:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me:

photo credit: thephotographymuse via photopin cc

photo credit: Luke,Ma via photopin cc

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