Photo Credit: Allef Vinicius, Unsplash.com

What do you think when you hear the word ‘attached’? More likely than not, you think of it as a good thing. If you had a secure attachment to your caregivers as a child, you developed self-esteem and a sense of security. Those who are in a relationship tend to identify themselves as ‘attached’. However, attachment also has a down side—especially when you develop an attachment to how you think life should go.

Here’s an example: you’ve put a lot of effort into a big project at work. You’ve spent time outside of regular hours, and on the weekends, and you think you’ve done a great job. As you get ready for work the morning you are to give your presentation, you think about the admiring looks on your colleagues’ faces. You imagine how proud your boss will be of you and how this will probably lead to a promotion, or at least land you as the head of the next big project that comes up. You’re filled with happy anticipation as you set up in the board room and then excitedly give your presentation. When you finish, you look around the room. No one seems impressed. Afterward, not one person comments on all your hard work and the only acknowledgement you get from your boss is a two-line email the next day pointing out a couple of issues you need to work on.

What is your reaction? Since you were imagining all the positive responses you would get, you’re likely devastated. Not only do you feel like all your hard work was for nothing, you probably are also resentful and hurt that no one seemed to think your presentation was as good as you thought it was. To put it bluntly, you feel like a huge failure. What’s the problem here?

The problem is that you were so attached to the outcome of outside validation that you guaranteed you’d be unhappy with anything less. This is the crux of why being attached to outcomes and external validation is a dangerous way to go about life. Here are four ways attachments to outcomes hurt us:

Your Efforts Are Often Negated

You can never guarantee how someone will react to anything in this life. No matter how hard you work on something or how much you try, once you put it out in the world, it is completely out of your control. If you are attached to the outcome, you don’t put any stock in the effort—you put it all in the outcome. Recall the example of the big project from above. If that person had told themselves, “I worked really hard and I’m super proud of all my effort whether my colleagues and boss agree or not,” they would not have been nearly as devastated.

You Go Into Reaction Mode

Most of our negative reactions to unpleasant people, situations, or events are based on attachments. When you expect something (good) to happen and it doesn’t, it’s easy to blame, criticize or get our feelings hurt and react negatively. On the flip side, when we go into any situation thinking, “I’m curious to see what will happen here,” you are proactively creating an interested state of mind that is impervious to outcome.

You Tend to Cling

We tend to cling to people or ideas because we want to control them. We want those we love to treat us in a certain way and we are too afraid of the unknown to give up our closely-held beliefs and ideas (even if they prove time and again to be narrow or even false). When you embrace the unknown and realize you have no control over how others think about you, you can ditch the clingy and welcome the adventure.

You Give Up Control of Your Happiness

Here’s the big one—when we let an outcome determine our level of worthiness, satisfaction, or validation, we are giving up control of own happiness. It’s like handing yourself over on a silver platter to someone or something that most likely won’t make it a top priority. What a recipe of misery, right? Yet we do it every day and in countless different types of situations. When you realize you control your own happiness and can determine how worthy you are regardless of how others act or how a situation turns out, you have the freedom to choose your state of mind every single time.

Becoming attached to outcomes is a big way we hamper our happiness, level of success, and feelings of empowerment. Want to learn some tips on how to take that control back? Join me for my next blog and we’ll explore some tips on how you can remove the negative attachments in your life and release your true freedom and fulfillment.

 

Trish Cody has over 20 years of experience as a strategic consultant for global L&D initiatives with some of the world’s top Fortune 500 companies, and has coached senior level leaders and teams in planning, designing, launching, and measuring the return for major initiatives.

As a Certified Professional Coach and Energy Leadership Master Practitioner, Trish works with entrepreneurs, senior leaders and their teams and to uncover their real desires for their organization and to align those desires with their values to co-create a strategy for execution and accountability. The leaders Trish partners with are truly working their own best plan for success in achieving their desired “new state” and thriving through the changes that success brings.