You’re nervous, I get it. You want things to work out. Somehow, you think that if you plan enough, push enough, manage every little detail just right, things will go your way. You invest a lot of energy in trying to make that thing you’ve got in your mind a reality.
Half the time, it doesn’t work. When it doesn’t, you’re crushed. Your disappointment knows no limits. Weeks flow by. You remain depressed and listless, deflated by having gotten a result you didn’t want. Self-pity sets in. You start to wonder if you’re cursed, if maybe the world is against you, if you were marked from birth for a special sort of suffering.
Well, you weren’t. Your problem is a common one. And, the good news is that it has a solution. The problem is that you are too dependent, too caught up in outcomes. The solution is to cultivate a different attitude, one of outcome independence.
Outcome independence isn’t apathy. Instead, it is a result of building your sense of security on things you can control, on things that cannot be taken from you. It means shifting from hoping other people will like you and give you something you want, to figuring out how you can take the initiative to create value that attracts rewards. It means that once you have done your duty, given the best you have to offer in a situation, been responsible in all aspects of planning and execution, you are able to relax and to take joy in knowing you’ve made your best effort whatever the outcome.
Adopting an attitude of outcome independence then, obviously, requires adjustments in your mindset.
- First, you must let work be its own reward. Every goal you achieve requires planning and doing. Every reward you earn, you earned through accomplishing many other small tasks. Focus on enjoying these. Apply yourself in such a way that you can earn your own respect. When you are working on solo projects, you have more control over the outcome than you do on projects that require the participation of others. Every time you have an opportunity to undertake a task alone, give yourself to it fully. Doing so allows you to take satisfaction in your contribution to the larger process, whatever the ultimate outcome might be.
- Second, you must increase your skills. Nothing reduces your worries about outcomes like confidence in your ability to handle whatever happens. When you know that you are equipped to handle any situation that arises, you relax. The goal then is to take all that energy going into fretting about the future, and put it into learning new skills.
This principle applies in multiple arenas. If you are worried about what’s going to happen at work, acquire some new skills that make you a more valuable employee. Polish your interview skills. Learn how to find work you enjoy no matter what. Choose Yourself. When you know that you have these skills at your disposal, your foundation ceases to be the will of other people and becomes instead your own well-earned sense of competence.
If your worries are more personal, say, about finding and sustaining a relationship that might turn into a family, well, that’s a matter of skills acquisition and value creation too. Most people don’t think so, but success in the personal arena is often as much a matter of developing and employing a specific skill set as it is in the professional arena. Fortunately, there are resources to help you.
- Third, you must cultivate an abundance mindset. People who believe opportunities and rewards are rare, must grasp at every one they see. Believing that chances to flourish only come around once in a great while, means that you will be focused on trying to engineer the outcome when you swing at each one.
But, opportunities to create value, to give, to serve and to see goods flow back to you are innumerable. Once you see that, you can be much more relaxed about the outcome of your attempt to profit from any particular opportunity. When you believe that opportunities are endless because you create them yourself, you are much freer to take an attitude that assumes that if one opportunity doesn’t yield the desired outcome, you’ll just move on to the next opportunity.
Putting these three ideas into practice will take you a long way toward the kind of outcome independence that frees us from our anxieties. Like all skills, employing them starts out rough and gets easier with time. Give it a try and see what happens. When you fail, don’t get discouraged. Even failure can be profitable, if you don’t get caught up in the negative outcome of your last effort and focus instead on they way it provides, yet again, another opportunity to practice.