By Sunny Simon

Sunny Simon is a career coach, writer and motivational speaker with 20 years in corporate human resources. Prior to founding Raise the Bar High, a life and career consulting firm, Simon held leadership positions at several Silicon Valley start-ups and Fortune 500 companies.

Sunny’s weekly column offers savvy career advice, job search strategies and practical tips to inspire readers to take action and make positive changes in their lives.

I love Italian food. While dinning at a new Italian bistro, my excitement mounted when I spotted lasagna, my all time favorite. When the steaming dish arrived, my eyes were in for a big shock. Expecting layered ribbons of pasta sheets filled with creamy ricotta and a mouthwatering tomato ragu, I gave the waiter a questioning look. He smiled and walked away. Once I sampled a bite, my mouth thanked me for a winning pick. On my plate was a deconstructed lasagna, same ingredients, different presentation.

Life is a lot like that. Often when we create a particular goal our natural tendency is to visualize exactly how the experience will unfold. It doesn’t always happen that way.

For example, my friend Larry applied for a promotion. He was deeply disappointed when the opportunity was offered to a colleague. During the same time frame, a more lucrative position hit the job posting board far surpassing the advantages of the so-called dream job. Larry told me he was so busy staring at the closed door; he nearly missed applying for the new opening. Making a last minute application Larry’s file was reviewed and the job became his.

This is a perfect example of what can happen when we establish preconceived notions. Make it a practice to resist the visualization and release your attachment to how things should occur. Learn to embrace the unexpected. Stay committed to your goals, but remain flexible in your approach.

A standard lasagna is labor intensive. You can create a deconstructed version in much less time. The taste is identical, only the appearance changes. Keep that in mind the next time you plan your future. Your journey to the goal line may be much different than you ever imagined. With a little luck, fate might even hand you a shortcut.