If you really want to be successful in life, you must work long and hard in pursuit of your goals — but you must also be prepared to abandon a path in an instant the moment you discover it is leading you the wrong way. This is one of the hardest lessons to learn. After putting time and energy into doing something one way, it’s very difficult to abandon it.

Giving up on a pursued goal means (a) you’ve been wrong and (b) you’ve wasted time. Both of these thoughts are hard to accept. The easy solution is to keep on keeping on, even when you suspect you are spinning your wheels. I’ve been guilty of this in the past, and I’ve seen dozens of friends and colleagues make the same mistake.

Two maxims to ponder:

1. You cannot eradicate past foolishness by continuing foolish behavior. You can only prolong it.

2. The moment you recognize your foolish past and initiate a different pattern of behavior, you begin to act wisely.

Learning to change directions is a great skill. It can help you in almost every area of your life and applies to small issues as well as major ones. Example: You are engaged in a minor argument. You are making your point quite well when you suddenly realize you are wrong. No one else recognizes this at the moment. You are winning. What do you do? Are you wise enough to admit your mistake immediately and start saying something that does make sense?

Or will you push on stubbornly, hoping to avoid the embarrassment of admitting you were wrong? If you think you may have trouble with small issues like this, it’s likely you will have trouble with the big ones too. Spend a few minutes thinking about everything you are doing right now — everything that involves the pursuit of a major goal. Ask yourself if the path you are taking is absolutely the best one possible. Could it be that there’s another way to accomplish your goal — a better way — that you haven’t pursued because it would mean admitting you’ve been wrong?