If you want something, let it go. How many times have we heard iterations of that phrase in modern rom-coms? Too many. Turns out, I discovered recently, that it applies to life as well. Once more, I am unashamedly applying trashy movie premises to my life and just as unashamedly benefitting from them. And I’d like to share my latest nugget of rose-tinted wisdom that I stumbled upon the other day with you. After all, I’m just a girl standing in front of an abstract audience asking for them to get on board with my cheesy logic.
Many, if not all, of us have goals in life. No matter where on the spectrum they lie, we generally want to achieve something, whether that’s acquiring a new job, losing a stone, obtaining your driving licence or simply getting out of bed in the morning. Some people amble through life without having a specific purpose and that’s totally ok, too.
As a society, we’ve been prescribed with the notion that goals come with intense hard work. Constant focus. No distractions. A path that is saturated with black and white absolutes. If we swerve off that path, because, life happens, then we suck. We’re not that committed, we’re worthless, why did we even bother trying in the first place? We have been led to believe, through consuming whatever countless mediums exist, that attaching to a goal in this way is the only way to achieve relative success.
But what if this same attachment is the very reason we are failing and stumbling all those countless times? I’m gonna come at you with a quote from the great Buddha himself, which you totally knew was coming…
“The root of all attachment is suffering.”
Now I’m closer to being a stack of pancakes than a Buddhist, but I know something that makes sense when I see it. This is taken from the second of the four Noble Truths, which he came upon after meditating under a tree for a long ass time – all four Noble Truths form the essence that is Buddhism and for now we’ll stick with this one.
What is attachment? Why is it so bad? It’s probably only something you’d associate with an infant and their mother, when in reality many adults are sleepwalking around on this planet attached to all kinds of things that aren’t necessarily good for them. Many of us are attached to toxic relationships, destructive routines, old tired habits, limiting beliefs and a consequently low self-esteem, religion, politics, drugs/food/alcohol – basically all of the stuff that keeps us stuck in dissatisfaction in our lives. And yes, that list includes goals!
Attachment in its rawest form is the identification with something, something that you tie your self-worth to, that serves what you believe to be your purpose, even if, and especially if it’s not good for you. If you attach yourself to the idea that you’re just a lazy person and you won’t achieve anything in life, then you have identified with being a sluggish underachiever. You have accepted that’s who you are, when that may not be the case at all. Under that attachment may lie a whole host of ambitions that you can’t access because you’re so identified with being a couch potato. But even if that attachment is toxic, it feels secure, it feels safe, it feels predictable. And thus, those old patterns and routines persist, because you’re more attached to them than the unfamiliarity of being free of who you have believed yourself to be til now.
So what happens when you detach? How does one even do this ‘detachment’?
Take for instance an example from yours truly. I’d quit my job in June to go freelance and had that rough goal in mind. I didn’t necessarily have any plans to get any gigs, I just gave myself the month off before I planned to start the dreaded application process. In that month, I’d landed myself not one, but two, incredible gigs for someone starting out as a freelancer. I hadn’t sent in a single job application anywhere and somehow they landed right in my lap. I’d detached from the goal of getting some, if any, work at all and in the process just let life happen – and what d’you know, I got more than I originally bargained for. Previously, when looking for work, I’d get up at ridiculous hours in the morning, spend so much time on job applications, fret over the status of them, be let down when I’d get rejected and continue that lethal loop of application overload. I was too attached to the idea of getting a specific role and with that, probably ruining my chances of getting to the next stage at all.
With attachment comes so much pressure that we put on ourselves. We rely on said attachments (to jobs, to people, to habits, to things) because they provide a false sense of security. But when we detach, though it’s scary not having that concrete/abstract ‘thing’ to identify with, even if the outcome isn’t as desired, we can make peace with that because our worth wasn’t in any way tied to it. Now I’m not saying forget your ambitions, goals or intentions completely, by detaching this doesn’t mean you are abandoning your precious mission – on the contrary. By detaching, you still have a rough manifestation of what you want – it’s simply more abstract, more futuristic than immediate, but very much still there. But rather than pinning all of your hopes and dreams on said goal(s), you instead surrender to letting the process happen and all those doubts and inner criticisms suddenly become white noise. All you have to do is get comfortable with not knowing the outcomes of something, but that’s a post for another day.
So whether you’re trying to master a yoga pose, learn a new language, try a new sport, cook somebody a new recipe, foster better habits in your life, buy a house, drink more water every day, whatever it is – try detaching from that goal and watch as that resistance dissolves, as the pressure is taken off you and then how those results will flow to you as organically as water does down a stream.