You have written your goals. You listed out your objectives to achieve those goals. You created tactics to support the objectives. You met with others to discuss the goals, and everyone’s on board. Preparations are made. Everyone is excited.
And then something goes horribly wrong.
The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry. – Robert Burns, Scottish Poet, “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough” (1775)
All of the sudden, the goal seems much further away; even unrealistic. Your plan lies in ashes on top of the Once-Great-Ideas-of-the-World heap.
What would the world’s most proven executive do?
Abraham Lincoln would be flexible. He didn’t discard his goals because things weren’t working out the way he planned. Whatever it took to obtain the ends, the means were justified (within reason, of course).
Consider that Lincoln’s original political goal was the containment of slavery. He hoped that the system would suffocate under its own weight and collapse. The horrid institution depended upon expansion so that the demand and value for slaves would remain high. Lincoln believed (correctly) that future technological improvements combined with the moral arguments of abolitionists would eventually doom the system.
What he didn’t count on was Southerners feeling so threatened. The growing Abolitionist movement, the founding of the Republican Party in 1856, the Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858, and the election of Lincoln in 1860 led radicals in the South to believe that the nation was headed toward abolition in no uncertain terms.
Slavery could no longer spread its cancer to the western states or into Mexico and Latin America. It was only then that Lincoln could establish his new goal: eradication.
When Southern states seceded, Lincoln had to adjust his tactics even though the goal remained the same. He pleaded with Southerners in his inaugural address to come back with the promise that their institution would remain untouched. He even proposed a Constitutional Amendment protecting it. However, Lincoln would not budge on keeping slavery where it already existed.
It wasn’t until after two years of fruitless war that Lincoln adjusted the goal. (Note the word adjust, not abandon.) He saw that the only way to win the Civil War was by freeing slaves in the Confederacy. Those slaves were helping the Southern war effort, and the Union could definitely use them on their side. Lincoln also had slave states in the North on the Union side, and he could not afford to turn against them. Containment of slavery was still the goal.
When the Union started winning the war, Lincoln had finally achieved his goal of containment. Slavery could no longer spread its cancer to the western states or into Mexico and Latin America. It was only then that Lincoln could establish his new goal: eradication.
If your goals have been sidetracked, just be flexible, think outside the box, and use your creativity. You’ll find there’s more than one way to get there.