Attached to an Outcome

Recently, my husband and I learned a valuable life lesson: don’t get attached to an outcome, or to how things will go to get you there.  

We are selling our boat so that we can pay off debt and gain more freedom to do the things that we want to do. In the first few days that it was listed, each time someone would call and want to come look at the boat, we would think, “ok, so this person will buy the boat, and then this will happen, then this, then this”. When that person came, and didn’t buy the boat, we were thrown for a bit and had to readjust. In our minds, we had everything mapped out: exactly how we thought it should happen, when we thought it should happen, and what we were going to do next, but we forgot about one thing……Divine timing. We got attached to the outcome and how we would get there, and we stressed ourselves out.

We were only thinking about it from our side of the table. “It would be perfect if we sold this boat NOW. If we do, then we can do steps 2-10 and move on.” What we weren’t seeing is that it’s not the perfect time for the person buying the boat just yet. Things have to line up for them before they can line up for us. In all of our planning, we were counting our chickens before they hatched. This is one of those colloquial phrases that basically means, we were making plans based on something happening, that hasn’t happened yet.

The timing that we think is so perfect for everyone and everything, isn’t always so. How many times have you thought that you wanted something right away, but you didn’t get it? You thought it would never come. But then, when you finally got it, you looked around and saw that the timing was much better. Vice Versa, when you got something that you wanted, the moment that you wanted it, and then realized that it would have been better to wait a while to get it. We don’t always see this as a blessing, but there is a Divine timing to everything.

What my husband and I should have been doing, and are doing now, is sitting back and letting people come, without expectation. We should have been trusting the process instead of stressing about things going perfectly.

There is still a plan for when the boat sells, and as of right now we know the step after that. So, once it sells, we will take that next step. That step can be adjusted if things change, as life often does, but we have a tentative plan in mind. We have to remember though, that it’s just that, a tentative plan. It’s not a set-in stone, this is how it will go or else, plan.

When you get attached to the outcome of things, you keep yourself running in circles.

You stay stressed out because you never know which way to go and you’re never settled. You’re always worrying about what you’re going to do if things don’t work out right. When things don’t align the way you think they should, you stress out more because get lost and you can’t see any other way of doing things. Then you finally find another way, you latch onto it, and the cycle starts again.

I’ve gone through this several times before, so this time, I was able to recognize it much more quickly. This is why lessons keep coming up in our lives: because we learn more and more each time they do.

In the past I would just keep spinning. I would have a goal in mind, see my first step, make a plan based on what I could see at the moment, and get attached.

The problem in all of this being, that I got attached to my one and only chosen outcome.

Once I did, I was no longer open-minded about other possibilities. It’s okay to make a tentative plan for things, to have an idea of where we’re headed, but if we’re solely focused on our chosen outcome, then we run the risk of missing out on something much better.

Imagine, if you will, a road that leads straight to your goal. You can see it, there at the end, like the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz. You think that this is the greatest place that you could ever end up so you start walking towards it. At one point, you take a step and you see another path come into view. This path is still straight to the Emerald City, but it’s slightly elevated above the one you’re on now. As you begin taking steps on this elevated path, you see a whole new part of the city that you’ve never even noticed before; you couldn’t see it from your previous vantage point. So, you start walking a little faster, more excited to get to the city and see your goals achieved. As you’re taking steps forward, you come upon another path that elevates you even more. This continues to happen, over and over again. With each new path, you see more and more that you didn’t even realize was there, that you never could have imagined from that first step. You walk faster and faster because you are more and more excited about where you’re going. You’re looking for ways to level up and get there more quickly. Because your looking for them, you see more and more paths.

Now, go back to that first step that you took. You see your goal; you see the Emerald City at the end of the path. Imagine this time that you start walking full force, not stopping to see what’s around you, not looking anywhere but at the end. When that elevated path comes up, you blow right past it because it’s not part of the original plan, or because you don’t see it at all. You’re so focused on getting to the end, on doing things YOUR way, on following YOUR expected plan based on what you can see, you don’t see any other way. You miss all of the shortcuts, all of the opportunities to learn things that will help you along the way.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

1) Often times we get attached to an outcome because we’re afraid that the option we see is our only option and, if we don’t hurry, it will disappear. This thought process comes from having a mindset of lack. We think there isn’t enough in this world for everyone, so we have to scrape and grab to get what we want. If we don’t, we are left without.

2) We’re afraid to go too deeply down the rabbit hole without seeing everything laid out in front of us, because we doubt our ability to handle whatever comes up along the way. If we know what is going to happen ahead of time, and we think we can’t handle it, then we can avoid the whole process all together.

3) We often refuse to move before we can see each step and the end result, because we think that we can control things better if we do.

At different times in my life, I have done all three of these things.

I wanted to know how all of the steps were going to work out BEFORE I ever moved to take the first step. That’s not how life works though. Most of the time, we only know the step right in front of us. Once we take that step, the next one is revealed. We have to learn to trust the process, and not get attached to any specific outcome.

When we try to control everything, we end up dragging our feet, or stopping entirely. If we can let go of trying to control how things will happen, things will happen much more quickly. We can focus our attention and efforts on doing the best job we can at what is in front of us right now, and chart our course as we go along. In this way, we save ourselves a ton of stressed out moments when things don’t go exactly according to our plan. If we don’t expect a certain thing to happen, we don’t stress when it doesn’t happen.

“Peace begins when expectation ends.” – Sri Chinmoy

The Universe is constantly working to help us get to our happiest life, if we pay attention to the signs around us.

So how do we keep from getting attached to the outcome?

1) Release control and release the need to know exactly how things will turn out. Let go of how you think things are supposed to be and be happy with what is. Practice saying (or singing =)) “Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be.”

2) Learn to make decisions based on what you DO want, what aligns with your dreams for your life, and not based on fear or what you don’t want. This helps you to deal with the situations that pop up along the path. If we are clear about what we want from the beginning, we can more easily adjust, and say yes and no to things.

3) Trust in your ability to handle what arises. You are stronger than you think you are. If you choose a path for yourself, the universe will help you. It will send you the people and lessons that can help to get you where you want to be. If you don’t know it now, you can learn it. If you know it, you can always learn more and grow.  

4) Understand that there are more ways of doing things than just what you can see now. There is a whole world of possibilities out there. Why limit yourself to only the outcomes that you know about and can see right in front of you? Sometimes we hold onto that thing that we think we want so tightly and we don’t realize that the universe has something much better in store for us, if we can only let go of that thing.

5) Know that there is a Divine timing to everything and respect that. There are other people involved in what you’re trying to do, even if you’re doing something for yourself. The people that you will interact with along the way will be affected by your presence, and by what you say and do, even if you never know it or meet them.

6) Be willing to take the steps necessary to get to your dream life, no matter how crazy they may seem. The universe will guide us through some things simply to help us learn along the way. Some things may not make any sense to us at the time, but they will help us in the end. We may not see a point now, but if we’re drawn to it, there’s a reason.

7) Take the first step. Once you have, take the next one. Don’t wait for things to be perfect. You don’t have to be able to see the entire staircase to where you’re going. You don’t have to run to get there. Take it as it comes.

8) Be kind to yourself when things do get a little sideways, or if you do find yourself attached to the outcome. Don’t beat yourself up or call yourself a failure. Learn the lesson and move on. Take it for what it is, a temporary setback, and refer back to #3.

9) Remember to keep yourself grounded along the way. What do I mean?

Don’t get stuck inside your own head, planning and trying to keep everything together. Come outside and see the world around you. Don’t get lost in the circle of expectation. Make a decision about something, trust that it will happen, step back, and let the Universe work. Not to say that it will come magically, but it may seem that way. Do the work when you need to do it, take steps on your path as they appear, but don’t get attached to the HOW of things.

Being ungrounded like this is one of the ways that I experience the “overexcitation” that Chris Shelton talks about in his Heart Cleansing videos. When I start feeling this way, I do the heart cleansing move and sound. It helps to release that energy from your body so that it doesn’t get stuck.

Another video that helped me tremendously was this one. In it Chris talks about how stress and our emotions can literally become a pain in the neck.

For a list of other things you can do to help keep yourself grounded, see the list in our “Take a Break From Everything” post.

Once you open yourself up and take your first step, things will start moving quicker than you think they might.

It won’t always feel that way because there will be temporary pauses along the way. These are the times that we need to learn a lesson; to remove the blocks that we have; and/or to deal with the emotions we have surrounding life. There are also times when our bodies and our minds need rest and time to integrate these changes. It feels like your progress stops all together, but it doesn’t. This is one of those necessary steps. Releasing emotions and blockages, and taking time to restore your spirit, gives you the ability to enjoy yourself more when you accomplish your goal. It gives you the strength needed to set another goal beyond that one and to keep moving closer to your dream life.

“Anticipate everything, expect nothing.” – Unknown