It’s got to be great!
There you are, setting out on a little activity. It could be a photography job. It might be a DIY task or a children’s birthday party. Whatever it is you will have at the front of your mind an idea of what the outcome will be: a storytelling photo, an effective shelf, a fantastic party. You have an attachment to the outcome.
“Nothing wrong with that” you say. “How else can I ensure success unless I work towards a great outcome?”
Perhaps what you are really saying is, “How else will I know that I am ok unless this activity turns out well?”
We look to our successes as evidence that we are great: fantastic photographers, nifty DIY experts or loving parents. Perhaps the focus of our attention should be elsewhere.
What if we were tuned in to the journey rather than the destination?
Step 1: Begin with kindness
We do give ourselves a hard time. Everything we do carries with it an assessment of how well we think we have done. We may also think about how much better we could do.
What if instead of focussing on this judgement, of a yet to happen outcome, we centred on the process we found ourselves in? What if we started with kindness towards ourselves?
Let’s cradle how we feel about each of the steps that make up the complete task. Looking at each step, let’s tune in to how each part might be. How difficult or easy. How much would be fun. How much might be tricky.
Let’s have some empathy for how these steps might make us feel. Let’s start with kindness for the journey.
Step 2: Loosening our attachment to the outcome
Once we develop some compassion for our feelings as we engage in the activity, we can begin to loosen our attachment to the outcome. By tuning into the whole process we encourage an awareness of how we will be along the way.
By practicing being totally present with every element of the activity we give credence to our feelings. We allow ourselves to be who we are. We begin to recognise that we are perfect in our imperfectness.
An ability to see that our attachment to the outcome is narrow can develop. Our understanding expands to know that every step along the way is an opportunity to flourish. In this fertile ground our capacity for non-judgement slowly rises.
Our ability to let go of our attachment to the outcome becomes possible.
Step 3: Sharing the merit
Instead of sharing the outcome, however we may judge that, we can now consider sharing the merits of the journey. Our capacity to see all of the experience as holistic life experience underpins our knowledge that we are OK. All this stuff is just life happening. Everything, the glory and the grime, has the capacity to expand our understanding of what it means to be human.
We may also want to share the outcome, but this now may just be another part of the process of self understanding. We may now be able to explain that although the outcome was not what we had hoped for that we wouldn’t have changed the experience ‘for the world.’
Loosening our hold on the outcome allows us to become more present with each element of the activity.
This is mindfulness in action.
“In the end, just three things matter:
How well we have lived
How well we have loved
How well we have learned to let go”
– Jack Kornfield