I used to be a bit of a control freak. I liked things neat and organized and according to “plan.” I pursued goals that I believed I could be successful at, and focused on doing well and producing amazing results, rather than “enjoying the process.” And change (especially the kind that was beyond my control) made me horribly uncomfortable.

I suppose many people can relate to this though, right? I mean, how many times have we all heard that we ought to embrace change, or the ever popular cliché, it’s about the journey, not the destination? These motivational phrases exist for the Type A tendencies in all of us. I know I’ve used them a time or two, if for no reason other than to make myself feel better!

But recently, I can feel something changing in myself. In the last few months, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to dive into my own personal growth and development, and I am slowly but surely shifting my mindset and rewriting my own stories.

And I’m starting to realize there’s a bit of a difference between someone who needs to be in control all the time in order to have things turn out just so, and someone who simply sets their intentions and tries their best to keep them.

You see, setting goals and intentions, and working towards something greater is not a problem. Giving your all and hoping for the best possible outcome is not a problem. Without doing so, we’d all be stumbling aimlessly through life just accepting whatever happened to come our way. But becoming attached to a desired outcome so much so that we lose the ability to adapt or take new chances? That’s a problem.

Being overly attached to a desired outcome cultivates a fear of failure that stunts our growth and limits our abilities.
release attachment

Instead, it would better serve us, in many instances, to focus not on the outcome, but on the energy and intention that we bring to our daily actions.

This mindset, though applicable in most areas of life, I find to be especially valuable when it comes to physical health. For instance, rather than focusing on the end goals of losing 20 pounds or getting off of medications (though both worthwhile), it may be more advantageous to focus instead on bringing our best effort to simply being healthy through the individual choices we make and actions we take day to day. By staying present and active in the intention to live a healthy lifestyle, we can make healthy living part of our identity. When I am achieving small wins each day by making healthy choices, I constantly receive positive reinforcement and the feeling that I am already a healthy person, instead of feeling that I will become a healthy person weeks or months down the road. What’s more, I am better able to find the healthy lifestyle that works best for me, rather than focusing on what brought my ideal outcome to another person. And, staying connected to the intention of making healthy choices and living a healthy lifestyle means that when I do achieve my desired outcome, I still have a reason to continue my healthy habits.  If, for some reason, I don’t achieve my initially desired outcome (say I wanted to lose 20 pounds but ended up losing fat and gaining muscle so that the scale says I only lost 15, yet I look and feel amazing), it’s quite okay! I don’t throw in the towel, quit exercising, and go back to binge eating Dorritos every night!

Goals and the definition of success, though still important, are beautifully flexible as our wants and needs change.

Releasing attachment to desired outcomes and instead focusing on giving our best, learning, and growing can also be a valuable approach to career and relationships. Yes, we can have ideas as to where we want to go and what we want out of these aspects of our life, but when we try to control every little detail, we are likely to miss out on some amazing experiences and opportunities! In contrast, when we have released our attachment to specific outcomes, we are more open to experimenting with new paths and not being afraid of where life takes us. We can try new things. We can learn what we don’t enjoy and realize which things don’t suit us in order to better pursue and incorporate those that do. We can stop playing it safe, step out of our comfort zones, and give ourselves the opportunity to fail in order to discover our highest potential. In turn, we are able to live life so much more fully!

The bottom line? Life is messy. It’s supposed to be that way! We needn’t be afraid to go where life takes us. It’s perfectly fine to have goals and desires, but they should never hold us back. Don’t be afraid to let go and embrace the unexpected.