Have you ever left for vacation or entered a meeting with an expectation of how you thought the experience would go, but it didn’t go the way you had anticipated at all?
Or perhaps you wanted something so badly that your “want” unwittingly became a belief that to feel happy, worthy, and fulfilled, you needed a specific outcome (emphasis on “need”).
My “attachment to outcome” led to pushing hard to achieve and experience what I thought I needed to feel happy, worthy, and fulfilled.
Dr. Albert Ellis (1913-2007), founder of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, explains ‘attachment to outcome’ as “traps of emotional over-reaction that are not of vital importance.” And according to Greek Stoic Philosopher Epictetus (c. 50 – c. 135 AD), “traps of emotional over-reaction result from attachment to outcomes you can’t control.”
There it is, “control!”
I do believe I’ve tried to “control” the sun shining on vacation, people “behaving” a certain way, or to “succeed” in a manner that society says is real “success.” Anything less was a failure.
Attachment to outcome feeds stress like a hungry shark swimming in a school of fish!
Busyness created from over-striving towards an outcome you ‘think you need’ diminishes your ability to problem solve and to “stop and smell the roses” along the path of life.
So, what do you do when the anticipation of a specific outcome is tugging at your heartstrings?
Here are a few questions to sort it all out while keeping this dose of reality in mind: “If you don’t get what you want, you are disappointed, but if you don’t get what you need, you will die.” ~Dr. Albert Ellis
#1: Is your desire for a specific outcome a life-or-death situation?
#2: What need is your outcome desire filling?
#3: What belief about yourself will be achieved if your desired outcome is received?
#4: What belief about yourself will be achieved if your desired outcome is NOT received?
#5: How can you see, feel, or ‘do’ the situation differently?
Tip: To enjoy the anticipation of a possible outcome (without superglue attachment), try using this intention: “May (this meeting, this vacation, this project, this conversation) be for my highest and greatest good and all concerned.”
When a situation doesn’t go how I dreamed it, an aha moment, a lesson learned, or a discovery often presents itself. Do I wish the sun had shined more often, or a meeting had gone a certain way? Absolutely. Do I feel disappointed? You bet. Does it ruin my entire experience? No way! Here’s why…
My husband and I recently returned home from our 15th annual glamping (camping in comfort) summer vacation adventure with friends and friends of friends. Did it go exactly how I had anticipated? Nope. Did I make a discovery – you bet! I call this discovery “stringing moments.”
The beauty of stringing moments (visualize a string of lights) is in between each moment; there is space for joy (and discovery) to live, whereas attachment to outcome erases the space joy lives in. Plus, disengaging from busyness supports healthy reorienting and redirecting. Here’s the best part – a series of moments strung together create a memory that lasts a lifetime or a learning experience that will take you higher than you ever thought possible.
Clinical Psychologist Dr. Anna Kress wrote, “Once we release our attachment to an outcome, it doesn’t mean that we’re any less interested in manifesting the goal. It simply means that we’re less interested in the fear of not achieving it. We’ve shifted our attention away from fear because we feel safe.”
Ahem… (we think) control = safety.
By all means—go for your goal and your dream outcome, but leave room for different outcomes, discoveries, and, of course, room for stringing moments into cherished memories.
Here’s to letting go and enjoying the ride!
Are you feeling called to “let go” of the sticky glue attachment to outcomes (that may in fact be holding you back)? Schedule your complimentary time to explore working together here: https://calendly.com/suzycarroll/30min