Divorced from Outcome

I had just finished my second book, and I was feeling great. The caring, wonderful woman I am married too wasn’t feeling nearly as great.

“I’m worried about you,” Celeste said completely unrelated to our conversation.

“Why?” I asked.

“If this book doesn’t sell you will be crushed.”

“No I won’t.”

“Yes you will.”

“I can assure you, I won’t be.”

“Your mom is worried too.”

“She is? Why is she worried?”

“She knows you will be crushed.”

Now it was getting comical. Everyone was worried about my feelings except for me. I tried to reassure her with, “Hon, I don’t know why, but all I can tell you is that I won’t be crushed. I just know it.”

I did know it. I knew I would be fine, but I wasn’t sure why or how I knew that. What I didn’t understand then but do now is this: I knew I was going to be fine because I had separated myself from the outcome. I was releasing a book that took 7 years to write and a lifetime of planning. I finally finished it by getting up at 4:30am for a year to write before heading to work at 6:45am. I spent months more editing it myself, figuring out how to self-publish it, and creating the website for it. Finally, my 313 page mental game training manual was ready to sell.

With all that, you’d think it might be hard to divorce myself from the outcome of sales, but it wasn’t. I realized that the book wasn’t about the outcome. It had to be written, and I had done it. I loved the process, and the process, the experience of writing, was the real point.

 I can’t say for sure, but I am certain it’s true for me: I am at my best when I am engaged in my work, not the outcome. I’m not suggesting that you should care less about outcomes. Sometimes we love outcomes. I’m just asking you, is the outcome the point of what you are doing? Is the outcome more important than the work, the craft? Hopefully both have some meaning to you, but if you mentally attach some sort of self-worth, self-image, or happiness to the trophies other people attach to your work, I think you are probably pointing yourself in the wrong direction.

 If I were so concerned about outcomes, I might well have been crushed at the lack of sales of that labor of love, but because I wasn’t strongly attached to the outcome, I was able to move on.

Now, this isn’t to say that I didn’t want the book to sell. I did want it to sell. I very much wanted it to sell. I simply understood that the sales of the book indicated nothing about me as a person other than that I wrote a book that didn’t sell. I could live with that, so I was free to take that chance. I experienced many wonderful moments through the process of taking that chance, and now I know that I can take more risks because I understand the outcome does not define me or control my happiness. I am married to a wonderful woman, not the outcome of book sales or blog statistics.

A few questions for you to ponder: Do your thoughts about imagined outcomes prevent you from taking action on your dreams? If so, what are those outcomes? Are the outcomes the point of your dream or is the experience the point? Could you live with the worst outcome you can imagine?

What did you find in asking those questions? I hope what you found is what I found when I took a chance: Mental and emotional freedom from the outcome (even if you have great desire for a certain outcome). It’s okay to feel the sting of losing. Understand the pain won’t last, pick yourself up, and get back to making plays. Best wishes on turning those dreams into reality.

Open Expectations

In yesterday’s post about grit, I mentioned that a way to increase grit is to be aware that the conditions/situations of the world have no control over you. One great way to do this is to remind yourself that outcomes have no control over you. This is true whether outcomes are positive or negative. To point yourself in this direction, see if you can have open expectations.

Open expectations are neither high goals nor low goals. In a way, they are a sort of anti-goal that should help create a mindset for all types of possibilities.

Open expectations set no ceiling nor floor for what can happen. It’s an expectation that, “Anything can happen, and I can handle it all.”

With open expectations, I have found in myself and my clients the following:

  • No fear or anxiety when high performance occurs. There is no glass ceiling. Performance can soar without the restriction of high expectations. In essence, performance can surpass one’s wildest dreams.
  • An opponent playing well doesn’t phase us because we know it has no bearing on our own mindset and emotions. Their playing well was within our expectations all along.
  • The unexpected does not phase us. We were completely open to anything and everything happening. However, the more possibility we can imagine, the more we can prepare for, and the smaller the unexpected world becomes.
  • We are filled with supreme confidence that comes from an understanding that we are not our outcomes nor our performances. These are temporary and fleeting, and we are greater than that. We always have an opportunity to make new plays. We can handle anything that comes our way.

When I start explaining this idea, some people jump to the conclusion that I am suggesting abandoning high expectations or goals of any type. This is not the case.

If you want to set goals or have expectations, do it. After all, I’m a proponent that we don’t control our thinking (though I do believe we influence it, thinking is sort of like paddling a canoe in a river, we have some influence, but so does the river, which limits and influences us to some extent), so how could I suggest you abandon a goal that has occurred to you. It may not be possible for you to unsee the goal once it is clear in your mind. I might just suggest that you not become so attached to the goal that you ascribe it some magical power to make you happy. The world doesn’t work this way, so I like to point in the direction of clarity.

Also, understand that having high expectations does not mean you will reach them, just as having doubts doesn’t mean you won’t reach them. Having doubts and high expectations are states of mind, not objective indicators about what is possible. Understand that your thoughts create your experience of the world and all the possibilities it entails. If you want to have high expectations and find it possible to imagine, by all means, do it. I would simply point out two other things: 1) It might also help to have open expectations about what could be possible in both a negative and positive direction. 2) Both doubts and confidence are normal and temporary. If you like confidence, try to steer in that direction when you can.

I hope you give open expectations a try. I hope you find, as I have, that it is a tremendous mindset for allowing our inner fire to burn brightly.