Detaching from the Outcome

September 16, 2010
1965 in-country identification card

Image via Wikipedia

“Commit to the process, detach from the outcome.” –From the Baghavad Gita. I’ve been thinking about how to adopt this attitude. If you search on this topic you’ll see lots of interesting discussion about it. I like Michael Prescott’s blog post about detaching from the outcome.

My experience volunteering with the Peace Corps in my 30s was an example of being focused on the outcome. Honestly, I didn’t realize at the time that I had an outcome in mind. I went to the assignment wanting to help others but I had already decided how I should help, whether or not that’s what was possible at that time and place. I had difficulty going with the flow. Today I see how being in the flow and in the moment can bring satisfaction right now.

During training, I spent more time worrying about learning the language so I could communicate verbally with others and less time enjoying what I was observing and experiencing. I can learn a language anytime but what I was experiencing was one-of-a-kind. I lost some of that perspective, mainly due to the stress of coping with a lot of change. I’ve learned a lot about being grateful for what I have and seeing the best of what is as it is.

As I learned a foreign language living in another country, ironically I quietly resented teaching English when asked to do it even though it is valuable for them to learn English. I like teaching and it’s sad for me to acknowledge I was too focused on whether this was “enough” to justify my time there. The process is to help and respond to what people want. Today I embrace opportunities to teach and learn.

I focused a lot of expectation on my work assignment with a local organization and whether it was worthy of my knowledge and skills instead of valuing what I was contributing. I lost track of why I was there – to offer help that is needed. I’m certain I did contribute positively and I’ve grown less judgmental of what I accomplish.

This is what I say to myself now: Do what’s in front of you and be open to where it leads. You put it in motion for yourself so accept it is the thing you’re supposed to be doing. The outcome could be better than you ever dreamed but you really only have this moment.


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