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Putting My Oxygen Mask on First – Letting Go of Outcomes

“The Master acts without doing anything and teaches without saying anything. Things arise and she lets them come; things disappear and she lets them go. She has but doesn’t possess, acts but doesn’t expect. When her work is done, she forgets it.” Lao Tzu

There are so many ways I can get attached to outcomes in my day to day life – focusing on whether I can relieve a new client’s pain, whether a date has potential for a long term relationship, whether my kids will get into the “right” college, whether I can achieve the financial goals I’ve set for my practice. 

I’ve realized how becoming too attached to outcomes/results is impacting my life in two ways.

  1. Not fun – I create a lot of stress and anxiety for myself trying to control the outcome, and I often delay my enjoyment for the achievement of that outcome instead of enjoying the process.
  2. Lesser results – I often prevent myself from achieving my outcome because overly focusing on the outcomes and holding on too tight results in behaviors that actually make success less likely. Or I miss out on alternative wonderful (potentially even better) outcomes because I am so focused on success being a specific result or outcome.

I’ve definitely learned that worrying about the future when I date doesn’t result in a great romantic relationship – and it’s also not very fun.  By relaxing and enjoying getting to know another person, I am more likely to find that romantic relationship someday, and I’m less likely to miss out on developing some great friendships or even getting some clients as part of the process.

Some of the best outcomes/results in my life were not what I was striving for – they were the unexpected results from my efforts. I joined CrossFit to become physically stronger, but the best outcomes are my personal mental and emotional growth and being part of a community that values an overall healthy lifestyle – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. My best referral sources for my business are people with whom I connected for other reasons.

I’m most successful when I take action that is in alignment with the values and goals that I’ve defined for myself and am open to what results occur from that action. It’s also a lot more fun when I focus on doing the best I can, being present and enjoying the process without regard to the outcome.

Because really when I’m tied to a specific outcome, it usually is about pursuing self worth. While achieving an outcome may temporarily give me a boost in my self worth, we all know that soon I will need to move on to the next accomplishment to maintain that sense of worth. And when I’m pursuing results for my self worth and I fail…

So how do you go about letting go of the results? It’s definitely an ongoing process for me, but this is what I’ve found that is helpful for me.

  1. I’ve spent time defining my values and goals/actions related to those values. Every morning I review my values and the actions I’ve defined that are in alignment with those values. This keeps me grounded in a lifetime focus on authenticity, growth, community, connection, and health and less focused on specific results.
  2. I meditate daily to train myself to avoid getting caught up in my thoughts and worries. Meditation also helps me realize that I’m enough as I am — and that successes and failures don’t impact my self worth.
  3. I do a “body scan” once in the morning and through out the day as I notice tightness in my upper back/shoulder or uneasiness in my stomach or tension in my temples. These sensations are warning signs that there are emotions that I’m not allowing myself to experience. I spend a few minutes reflecting on the emotion causing the feeling, and then give myself 1-2 minutes to really sit with that emotion and experience it. As I do this practice, I notice that often the emotions happen when hanging on tightly too an outcome – so it’s a good reminder to bring my focus and definition of success back to doing the best I can following a process that is in alignment with my values.

Please reach out and share any techniques that you’ve used to let go of outcomes.


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