What Too-Tight Pants Taught Me About Changing My Goals

I noticed in my October newsletter that many of you clicked on the link to my new suit. What I didn’t say is that I was shopping for a new suit because, due to the pandemic, aging and that peanut M&M habit I’ve written about before, I have officially gone up a pants size. 

I wasn’t overly upset about this, until I began trying on my favorite fall wardrobe.

My favorite suits didn’t fit. 

(You all know I love a good power suit.) 

So, like the diligent self-improvement student that I am, I set a goal to fit back into my usual pants size. I downloaded an app and tried to cut back on those peanut M&Ms. 

But, after a couple of months of moderate trying, those pants still didn’t fit.

One day, I was lamenting to my good friend Cari that I had set a goal but couldn’t achieve it. She said something that completely reframed my perspective: 

“Instead of trying to change yourself to fit into your pants, why don’t you change your pants to fit you?”


This simple, logical and totally empathetic solution had truly never occurred to me. To the tailor I went, and a little elastic worked wonders.

I think this shift in attitude is much bigger than pants. Maybe you can relate. Where in your life, career or business have you tried changing yourself to fit a situation you’ve outgrown rather than changing the situation to fit your needs? 

I began to reflect on a few ways I’ve applied this lesson.

Sometimes A Fit Is Wrong For A Good Reason 

As I’ve written about, I know social media is a great marketing outlet, so I tried to change myself to fit Instagram and Facebook: taking more selfies, following more influencers, digesting more memes. It didn’t feel authentic or enjoyable or beneficial to my business or my self-esteem. I realized that those channels just weren’t a great fit for me.

Likewise, everyone told me that authors and speakers need to have a podcast, so I started a podcast. I enjoyed brainstorming people to interview, and I enjoyed the conversations. I did not enjoy the production planning, scheduling, marketing or editing parts of having a podcast. Eventually, I decided that podcasts are great, they’re just not a fit for me.

Everything Can’t Fit All the Time

I’m still trying to apply this advice to certain aspects of my life. As I’ve shared before, I am a gold star award-winning perfectionist and people-pleaser. It’s very hard for me to tell someone “no.” 

But one thing I learned from the forced calendar-clearing of the pandemic is that, as much as I love being social and attending events and having coffees and networking and all of the things, I really do need alone time — and I really benefit from it. 

I hate disappointing people (including myself) by saying “no,” but I know that protecting my time is ultimately the right choice for me.

How might you apply this lesson? 

Think about an issue, an event, a commitment or a task that doesn’t feel comfortable. Ask yourself: Instead of changing yourself, can you in some way alter the external issue that’s causing your stress? Or can you decide to approach it in a totally different way?

Maybe you struggle with focus and just found out that you have to return to your employer’s open-concept office. How can you change your workspace to better fit your needs? What tools can you implement to help you stay focused during the workday?

Maybe your job tasks aren’t a good fit for you. Instead of leaving the company, are there ways to amend your job description or move into a different role that feels like a better fit?

If you’re not achieving your goals, sometimes it’s the goal that has to change — not you.

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Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


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