Detour Ahead

When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal, you do not change your decision to get there.” Zig Ziglar

Detours – we’ve all experienced them at one time or another. We start out on a path toward a goal, we’re moving ahead smartly, things are falling into place just as planned and then – bam! We’re faced with the unexpected – we lose the funding, the course of study we planned on is postponed indefinitely, or our spouse or loved one are faced with a serious illness. Any number of difficulties – from minor to major – can divert us from our original goal. What do we do then?

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I was having coffee the other day with a good friend and talking about the detours and diversions we can encounter in pursuit of a goal.   She shared something a mentor had once told her: “Don’t look at things as problems, look at them as circumstances, because circumstances have a way of changing all on their own.” How true this can be. If you’ve ever found yourself in the middle of dealing with a difficult “circumstance,” only to have the situation suddenly changed, and the difficult problem removed, you’ll know what I mean.

So what if you aren’t so lucky? Here are a few thoughts on managing the detours that present themselves on the way to your goal.

  • Analyze the situation. Invest the time and effort to assess where you are, your wants and needs, and your options. Think about what you can do to best utilize those options to start moving ahead again.
  • Enlist the help of a friend or coach. It’s very true that others can often see choices or opportunities that are difficult for us to spot when we’re in the middle of a difficulty. They can also often point out qualities or talents in ourselves that might be useful to use going forward.
  • Take responsibility for your part. Some things are beyond our control but that doesn’t mean we’re helpless. You may not be able to do anything about an unexpected misfortune but there is almost always something you can do about how you choose to respond to it. Making an effort to think about possible solutions instead of focusing on the problem can go a long way here.
  • A detour is just that – an alternate route to your goal. It doesn’t have to change your destination. It just changes how you go about getting there. This may be a time to get creative, to think outside the box.
  • Don’t worry so much about what you are going to do; focus on how you are going to be. This can have the effect of helping you rise above the situation, and consider it from a different perspective.
  • Ask yourself, “What is the lesson here?” Is this an opportunity to learn something about yourself or your path that may benefit you? Are you able to discover inner resources within yourself you didn’t know were there? Have you developed new relationships, or perhaps skills that you would not have developed otherwise?
  • Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. When we don’t know what to do – especially when we don’t know what to do – waiting a bit can often bring about a change or answer all on its own.

The path to a goal – small or large – is almost never going to be in a straight line. Finding our way through can offer us glimpses of ourselves – our strengths and our resilience – we didn’t know were there. That’s a lesson worth learning.

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