Non-attachment seems to be against everything we’ve learned about winning: that those who win are winners. We all want to be winners. After a while, maybe it is also important to make sure you lose while I’m winning. Then there are the offspring of getting to winning: ambition, competition, success, and “we’re #1!”
Non-attachment sounds lazy, uncaring, and weird. It’s anything but. Non-attachment does not mean you don’t care, won’t try, or give up. Non-attachment means you care deeply, do your best, and then don’t expect the world to throw money (or fame) at you. By doing your best, you can release the need for luck, second-thoughts, and whatever the inner critic decides to bring up. A few examples of what non-attachment looks like will help with clarity:
You are in line for a new job. You are asked to take some good-fit behavioral tests.
Attachment to outcome move: Instead of answering honestly, you suss out what the company is looking for and answer that way.
Outcome: you get the job and are miserable, because the job fit is awful and you have to keep re-programming your authentic self.
Non-attachment to outcome move: You answer honestly. If you get the job, you can behave authentically and be appreciated for your skills. If you don’t get the job, you can be glad that you didn’t waste time trying to force yourself into a bad fit.
You want your writing accepted into an upcoming magazine or journal.
Attachment to outcome move: You check the magazine’s “coming next” list of topics. Not exactly your favorite topic or type of magazine, but you are a writer and can write about anything
Outcome: You work very hard and very long to get that theme into a piece of work. You are not chosen. You begin to doubt yourself as a writer. You also start to make snarky comments in social media about the magazine or editor.
Non-attachment to outcome move: You read several copies of the magazine to discover how the magazine handles topics, if they have a slant, if there is a FAQ section for writers on their website. It’s not really a good match. You decide not to write the article because you can’t agree with their viewpoint. You have free time to pursue your own creative work and have a piece ready for another magazine at another time.
Someone you know on Facebook posts her latest (in a long series) humble-brag.
Attached to outcome move: You call her on that s**t, because you know the truth behind that story. And you tell her what she should have done to earn real praise.
Outcome: you look like you are trying to control the universe (again). Worse, your FB friend feels embarrassed, takes your advice next time and it ends in disaster. She blames you.
Non-attachment to outcome move: You take a deep breath, roll your eyes (mentally) and congratulate her because she achieved something important in her life. You then move on without guilt or grudge.
Non-attachment frees you from the responsibility, outcome and control over work that is not yours to do. It allow you to do your best work without blaming yourself if you don’t win the prize. It allows you more emotional room and freedom.
Non-attachment is hard to learn. If you work in a corporate situation (or ever did), it is harder. But the freedom feels wonderful, and is something worth practicing.
–-Quinn McDonald is a writer who develops and teaches business writing courses. She is also a creativity coach.