Desire without attachment to outcome might sound like a paradox at first. How can you desire or want something and yet not care about whether you get it or not?
While desire without attachment is an old personal development concept, I myself haven’t came across any great explanations of it, and therefore it took me a while to understand it.
What are some of your future goals? Maybe it’s to increase your income, get in shape, lose weight, improve your social skills, or find that special love of your life. These are all worthy goals. Having goals is essential for personal development and growth.
Without goals your life situation will become boring, dull, and predictable. Basically your life situation is your current circumstances and lifestyle. It’s important to differentiate between your life situation and your aliveness. As I mentioned your life situation are your current circumstances and situations in life.
Your aliveness on the other hand is separate from your life situation. Your aliveness is your present moment, it’s here and now regardless of your past or your future. The quality of your aliveness is completely up to you.
Have you ever met a disabled or handicapped person and thought how difficult it must be? well you were focused on their life situation, their circumstances. Maybe when you started talking to them, and getting to know them better, you realized that they were happier than most people. How come? Because they are conscious of their aliveness. They realize that while they can try improve their life situation (by taking physical therapy or getting an operation), they wont let their life situation dictate their current state of aliveness and happiness.
The difference between your life situation and your aliveness is essential to understanding the concept of desire without attachment to outcome. Ofter we associate our aliveness with our life situation thinking that losing weight or making more money will make us happy.
Losing weight or making more money might improve the quality of your life however it will not make you happy. If you have bad financial habits, and say you win 10 million dollars tomorrow, you will eventually end up wasting all that away the same way you waste your current income. It might take you a little longer, just like how most lottery winners end up accumulating lots and lots of debt several years after their winning date. This is also why lots of Hollywood celebrities and famous music artists end up abusing drugs and going into rehab after becoming very successful. Basically with all the money they just made, they can now afford to really indulge in their addictions and destructive habits, to the point where they end up having to get professional help.
So as you can see money might increase the quality of your life, but it certainly will not solve all your problems. Does that mean that you shouldn’t desire riches and wealth? of course not. You certainly should. With lots of money you get a lot of freedom, you can travel the world, eat the best foods, live in luxurious houses, and even do a lot of good for the community. However while having that desire you must realize, that making more money does not equal happiness. This is a great example of desire without attachment to outcome. You desire the money, and work hard to get it, yet you are conscious that it’s not your salvation, and therefore you chose to be alive and enjoy your current life situation. This is why your aliveness and your life situation are separate.
You can work on improving your future life situation, however you can improve your aliveness right now. Your aliveness is your current state of happiness. There is no reason for you not to be happy in the current moment no matter what your life situation is. Happiness is a choice. Once you are monitoring your aliveness and are happy, you will realize that yes you can desire future goals, however you will not beat yourself up about your progress or the outcome (which you can’t control anyway) since you are already happy in the present moment.
Once you desire a goal without attachment to outcome you suddenly become free of fears and self defeating habits. You will not feel guilty about your slow progress and beat yourself up about it. Instead you will do your best, and let the progress and result take care of themselves, because in the present moment you are already happy and complete. Fear will no longer slow you down, fear no longer can hold you back since you have no attachment to the outcome.
As I’ve been working on improving my social skills, I tended to let fear hold me back. Basically I was sometimes scared of talking to strangers and not receiving a good response, basically fear of rejection. What’s behind that fear? well I made the mistake of associating reaching my goals (having great social skills) with happiness. And therefore whenever I would experience rejection, I would feel that my social skills stink, and start feeling bad. This of course has slowed down my progress in improving my social skills. Now that I’m conscious of my aliveness, and already feel happy the way I am, I rarely ever hesitate to approach strangers, because I’m no longer attached to the outcome.
Your state of aliveness depends heavily on you accepting everything the way it is. This doesn’t mean that you wont work on improving your life situation, however there is no reason for you not to feel complete and happy right now. Once you accept everything the way it is, then you can desire without being attached to the outcome and really start transforming your life situation.
If you can’t accept your current life situation and are always looking to the future for happiness you will never be happy. Because no matter how many goals you achieve you’ll always want more, they’ll always be a next level and you will never stop to enjoy the present moment.
The practical application of desire without attachment is to set performance goals not outcome related goals. For example if you want to lose weight, decide on how often you will exercise (performance goal), instead of your actual weight loss. You can of course have a goal weight, however concentrate on your performance not the outcome. While trying to lose weight be conscious of the present moment and be greatfull for your current life situation. Enjoy life for what it is, and don’t try to delay your happiness until you reach your goal.This article was featured in The Twentieth Edition of the Carnival of Improving Life and Carnival of Self-Mastery