For most people, happiness and success are a function of the results they achieve. Their lives are dedicated to achieving results. The source of that almost obsessive focus on results is not hard to find.
Virtually from the moment we are born, our parents stress the importance of results.
When we do what they want us to do, we hear: “Good boy!” or “Good girl!” When we finish all our food, we hear: “Good for you; you ate all your food!” As we get older we hear: “Good job!” when we do our errands or clean our room. (Obviously there are some parents who are very critical and never acknowledge their children for achieving anything.)
What about your own childhood?
Think back to your own childhood: How many times did your parents acknowledge you for your achievements? How many times did they acknowledge you for the effort you put in, for your commitment, whether you achieved the desired results or not?
Then we go to school, where getting the “right” answer will get you a good grade, whether or not you understand why your answer is correct, and getting the “wrong” answer will get you a low grade, even if you understand the issue and made a minor mistake in computing the answer.
What do our friends and family focus on? Did you win the race? – not, Did you do your best? Did you succeed in achieving what you set out to do? – not, What was your experience of the journey?
Is success really about achieving results?
Here’s my point and what I’d like you to ask yourself: If you reach a goal but dread every day you spend reaching the goal, is that really a “success”? And if you don’t reach your goal, but love every day you spend trying to reach the goal, is that really a “failure”?
What is there in the nature of life that says results are the most important thing? Other than our physical survival, what other result is really inherently important? If life is really about enjoyment, happiness, fulfillment—and you can get those from the process/the journey—then why are results so important?
Here’s an alternative way to view life
What if we looked at life this way: Instead of asking what result we achieved, we asked: What was our experience of the process utilized to achieve the result or go for the result if it was not achieved? If you enjoy the process and are unattached to the results, what’s the difference what the results are?
We are so conditioned to focus on results that you might be struggling to make sense of what I’m suggesting, but do your best to be open to a challenge to some of your most fundamental beliefs. Do any of these common beliefs feel true to you?
The most important thing in life are the results I achieve.
What makes me good enough are the results I achieve.
If I don’t achieve results I am a failure.
If I don’t produce results people will think badly of me.
These are the beliefs that most people form as a result of the parenting and schooling I described above.
When I told one client it was possible to be satisfied—even happy—with what she had, instead of constantly wanting something different, she said she didn’t want to be satisfied with something different, such as having less money or weighing more than her “desirable” weight. She literally didn’t want to find a way to be happy without having the results that she wants.
Aren’t you attached to results?
Be honest with yourself, isn’t this true for you too, at least a lot of the time?
That’s how attached we are to the idea that happiness must come from what we have, from the results we achieve. She couldn’t even imagine the possibility of being happy if she didn’t achieve the results she desired.
If we understand that events (including any result) have no inherent meaning as I’ve explained in a number of blog posts, it is possible to become unattached to results. That enables us to choose goals without being attached to the results, and focus more on the daily experience of moving toward that goal than on achieving the goal itself.
Try thinking about it this way: Would you rather try to produce a result for one year and truly enjoy the process every day and fail to achieve the result, or be miserable every day during the year and achieve the result on the last day
Of course there is nothing wrong with having both. I’m not saying that there is no value in accomplishing what you set out to accomplish. What I’m saying is that being attached to results—the destination rather than the journey—has resulted in a society where results are all that count, where achievement has become an obsession regardless of the costs.
The next time there is a specific result you are trying to reach, remember that events (including results) have no inherent meaning and focus on your daily experience as you work toward your goal. When you reach the end of your journey, whether or not you achieve the desired result, ask yourself: What actually has had the biggest impact on the quality of my life? The momentary experience of the result itself or my experience of life over time as I worked to achieve the result.
Thanks for reading my blog. Please share your thoughts about our obsession with achieving results and the possibility of being unattached to results.
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You also can find out about Natural Confidence, an interactive digital program that enables you to unlearn 19 of the most common beliefs, which cause some of the most common behavioral and emotional problems that plague us