Attachment to Desired Outcomes Makes Us Less Likely to Achieve Them

The one who releases himself from the emotional attachment to a desired outcome is, ironically, the one most likely to realize that  outcome.”
–Erik Von Markovik

Before I came across Markovik’s wise words, I found this lesson out the hard way through life experiences. This statement is all too true. When we care too much about a desired outcome, we tend to worry too much and become uncomfortable.  Our unnecessary worry and discomfort tends to undermine our efforts. The more attached we become to something happening as we want it to, the more anxiety we feel. As a result, we cease to function at our peak performances levels. We become less smooth, more clumsy. We stumble instead of flow.

It is fine and natural to have goals, but the less emotional pressure we feel for things to turn out as we want, the more open we can be to new possibilities. We can enjoy the ride rather than obsess over the destination. Moreover, we can arrive at the understanding that should things not turn out as we hoped, it is no big deal, no great disaster, no life-shattering cataclysm. There will always be other options, other situations, other opportunities for new goals and new adventures. Just as a rower in a canoe navigates best when she adapts her course to the changing currents in the river, so do we best move towards our goals when we flexibly adapt to the changing tides of life.

This whole attitude and approach can be summarized in a single maxim or principle: aim for an outcome, but don’t obsessively fixate on whether you attain it or not. Or, to phrase the principle in the terms of the traveling metaphor: head for a place, but don’t obsessively fixate on whether or not you get there. In other words, act without attachment to results. Ironically, this very lack of “needing” things to be as you want, of making your happiness dependent on your desired outcome, ends up making you more likely to achieve your goal. In effect, you “get out of your own way” so that you can flow smoothly. Your lack of attachment to desired results keeps you free and open and your freedom and openness makes you more likely to attain your desired results.  The best way to hold on is to let go.

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