I used to be very disappointed when some of my personal and business goals didn’t work out the way they were planned, or I had expected. Working long hours and not getting the result I wanted or when I wanted it, really upset me.
But now, many sunsets later – as I continue my daily training to become a black belt in detachment – I can attest to this: when you stop trying to make things work out in a particular way, have no attachment to the outcome and let life take its natural course – it’s the best thing you can do for yourself and your business.
The watershed moment came a few years ago when I decided to upgrade the client management and automation systems in my business. I expected I would be done in three weeks (given the time it would take to install, test, and tweak them, it was a reasonable expectation). But, in the end it took eight weeks.
Upset and frustrated about how much longer it took (because it delayed the completion of other projects), I shared my experience with a colleague. She looked at me calmly and said, “Have no expectations.”
Hearing her say that I remembered a concept I had come across years earlier, whilst reading some personal development books: have no expectations and you’ll never be disappointed.
(Nowadays it’s been whittled down to ‘No expectations, no disappointments.’)
I remember thinking at the time, as logical as it may seem, it’s unrealistic.
Firstly, whether we’re ready to admit it or not, we assign expectations to people, relationships, our personal and business goals, etc., on a daily basis.
Secondly, people often use ‘have no expectations’ as a way to protect themselves against potential disappointments. However, disappointments are a natural part of life – even if you have no expectations – it’s impossible to avoid feeling disappointment. All we can do is learn how to deal with it, when we feel it.
Having expectations is good
I LIKE having positive expectations and maybe you do too. Having expectations of how you would like things to turn out is like setting an intention for something to happen. There’s not harm in that, right?
One of the not-so-secret mantras I live by is “What you believe and expect is what you’ll experience.”
Amazing things have been achieved and so many wonderful experiences have been brought into my life, thanks to this mantra.
You see people often erroneously believe that ‘having an expectation’ is the problem but as you’ll see in a moment, it’s not.
Let’s get technical for a second. The most used definition of ‘expectation’ is A strong belief that something will happen or be the case.
Nothing wrong with that, right? It’s good to have a (positive) expectation. It keeps us motivated, moving forward and creates a childlike excitement within us – the thrill of possibly getting what we want.
So, if having an expectation is good, wherein lies the problem?
We are attached to the outcome.
When and how will it happen? Or why didn’t it happen? And when the outcome/result is not as we expected we feel frustrated, disappointed, maybe even angry.
If you’d asked me a few years ago, ‘Are you attached to the result of your actions?’ “Yes!” would’ve been my definitive answer.
Nowadays, the answer is “Not anymore.”
Have no attachment to the outcome
I accidentally moved on to the path of ‘letting go’ and ‘detaching from the outcome’, when I started reading Paramahansa Yogananda’s books.
One day my eyes stopped at this quote:
At the time I was taking action. Doing my best. But rather than relax I expected the outcome to be what I wanted it to be. I was attached to the outcome!
I thought to myself, “I don’t want to go through life feeling disappointed, dissatisfied or frustrated every time I don’t get the result I want. I prefer to be calm and relaxed and allow what will be… to be.”
It’s then I decided to remind myself of this quote daily. I began to ‘live’ it. And what a game changer it’s been!
You see, when you are no longer anxious about the result and you let go of your attachment to the fruits of your actions, your attention can fall back into the present moment. When you live in the moment, you’re able to fully focus on any task at hand. Be in a state of flow – calm, creative, at ease – and enjoy the fulfilment this brings.
As you take care of each task, each action moves you closer to your goal.
When you’ve done what you can, realise you’ve done your best and then relax.
This opens you up to anything and everything, with acceptance, gratitude, and love, so you’re more likely to receive what you want. Sometimes you’ll even be pleasantly surprised when the Universe sends you an even better outcome than you anticipated!
Even though your mind likes to believe it is in control, you can’t control other people or circumstances. But you can control your own actions, emotions, and attitude, i.e., maintain a positive mindset even if things don’t work out as expected or planned for you. And, when you have no attachment to the outcome of your actions you focus on what’s in your control and you’re more likely to achieve the results you want.
Finally, having no attachment to the outcome gives you the freedom to be yourself. When you’re not focused on impressing others or meeting their expectations, you’re free to be your authentic self. And when you’re being your authentic self, people are drawn to you because they can see you’re genuine and real.
The next time something doesn’t go as planned or expected, remember that it’s not the end of the world. Don’t beat yourself up or get down on yourself – just take a deep breath and start again with a fresh perspective.
Try and let go and have no attachment to the outcome. This doesn’t mean giving up on your dreams or your goals; or you don’t hope for the best, but rather that you are not disappointed when things don’t go as planned. It means being okay with (sometimes) not getting what you want.
What matters is how you choose to respond to the situation and what you do next.
There’s a lot of power in detachment. When we let go of our need for things to turn out a certain way, and have no attachment to the outcome, we open ourselves up to infinite possibilities.
We can approach each moment with fresh eyes and a willingness to simply be in the present. This is where the magic happens – when we’re not bogged down by our own expectations or what other people might think. When we let go, we allow ourselves to simply experience life as it unfolds in front of us. And that can be truly magical.