What does it mean to get attached to an outcome and how do we release it and manifest our goals? How do we go from pushing and clinging to the peace of letting go?
Let’s look at a quick example.
Angela wanted a new job more than anything. She graduated from college a few years ago and had been “surviving in a soul-sucking job” ever since. Feeling increasingly joyless and frustrated, she dragged herself to work during the day and searched for jobs at night. She’d been on several job interviews, but never made it past the second round.
Every time she got an interview, Angela started to believe that this job was “the one.” She began to fantasize about the job and how it would give her a new life. Although she tried to ignore it, she was soon overcome by a creeping sense of urgency to make this fantasy come true.
Before she knew it, Angela was attached to the outcome. She didn’t just want it to happen, she felt as though she needed it to happen. “I’m probably making too big a deal out of it, but I can’t help it. I just want it so badly,” she told me.
Angela described herself as “super woo-woo, but in a good way” and it was hard to argue. Before her current job dissatisfaction, Angela’s strong connection to spirituality gave her a sense of security and optimism that others gravitated towards. She began to wonder if she had lost the connection during her job search. “Maybe I’m blocking my blessings,” she said.
Realizing that her neediness was probably turning people off and sabotaging her efforts, Angela knew that she had to change her approach. She wasn’t sure how, but she was willing to try. Something about the new softness in her eyes suggested that she was finally ready to start releasing her attachment to the outcome. Rather than a specific outcome, Angela was now making herself emotionally available for the best outcome.
As she began taking the idea of letting go more seriously, a small space suddenly opened up for something new.
Whether your approach to manifesting goals is strictly practical, completely woo-woo, or something in between, it’s fair to say that most people struggle with getting attached to outcomes. It’s not that we’re masochists—opting to set goals and then torture ourselves as we await their hoped-for arrival. It’s just that we’re human. We are emotional beings. We might have an easy time convincing ourselves to detach intellectually from how we want things to go, but letting go emotionally is a different story all together.
So, how do we let go emotionally?
How do we release our grip and give our goals the freedom they need to flourish?
Here are 3 Steps to Releasing Your Attachment to an Outcome
Step 1: Have Compassion for the Part of You That is Attached to an Outcome
While it’s tempting to imagine that all of you is attached to an outcome, the truth is that there is only a part of you that is attached to an outcome. It may seem like a big part, but that’s because you’ve probably been focusing a lot of your energy on either resisting it or trying to get rid of it. Unfortunately, the more aggressively you approach this part of you, the more entrenched it gets in its position. Rather than trying to get rid of it, give it the loving care that it really needs. After all, it’s attached to an outcome because it’s scared. It needs your compassion more than anything.
See the part of you that is attached to an outcome as a small child and imagine treating it with kindness. Comfort and reassure it. Allow it to soften as it feels soothed and supported. Whenever it gets scared again in the future—and it will—just continue to provide it with compassion and care.
If this part feels overwhelming at times, try to remember that there are other parts of you that are much more patient and confident. There is also a core part of who you are, what some people call a Higher Self, Divine Self, or Inner Being that knows that all is well. According to a therapy approach I like to use in my private practice called Internal Family Systems (IFS), this core part—referred to as the Self in IFS—is a source of infinite compassion and calm. It is fully capable of providing your many other parts with compassion and soothing. Allow this core part of who you are to take the lead in your life and to comfort the part that is attached to the outcome.
Step 2: Keep All Options on the Table
Nothing triggers attachment to an outcome like the feeling of scarcity. Whether you’re worried about running out of opportunities or time, scarcity is a fear-based mindset that can wreak havoc on your goals. Feelings of scarcity can lead to impulsive actions and an unhealthy preoccupation with things you don’t have. Studies show that this effect is true in a variety of situations including financial scarcity and social scarcity due to feelings of loneliness.
In order to reduce feelings of scarcity, keep all options on the table—even the options that aren’t exactly your favorites right now. Don’t discard possible solutions too soon and, most importantly, don’t fall in love with an option prematurely. Don’t fantasize about how your life will look once you obtain that one option. Be as neutral as you can. Stay open to unexpected opportunities and try not to idealize or force any particular solution.
When we’re attached to an outcome, we tend to fixate on or only accept one solution—excluding any new information, ideas, or opportunities.
It’s usually only in retrospect that we realize just how much clinging to one solution prevented us from seeing the best path to what we truly want.
Ask yourself, Am I limiting my vision of what’s available? Am I closing my mind and heart to new solutions that I might not even know about yet? If your answer to either question is yes, try to open up and make room for new options. Often the real solution to a goal is either something that isn’t ready or available yet (and requires some patience) or something that was right in front of you all along—you just couldn’t see it because you decided prematurely to give 100% to a solution that isn’t working.
Step 3: Ask for More
While it may sound counterintuitive to ask for more when you’re concerned about manifesting just one thing, it’s a surprisingly effective strategy. Here’s what it looks like:
- If you want to have one new job, picture having three good offers to choose from.
- If you’re looking for a romantic partner, imagine having two amazing people who are interested in you.
- If you want to have a baby, imagine taking care of a toddler and a baby (or two babies!)
- If you want to buy a dream house, picture yourself with a dream house and a vacation home.
The only word of caution here is that if you imagine having more, you need to be ready to for the possibility of having multiple manifestations at the same time. It might just happen exactly how you imagine it will.
Our minds like to have problems to work on and they’ll happily work on whatever problems we give them. If your mind is focused on solving the problem of trying to come up with just one viable option, it will work under the premise that one is difficult for you.
If your mind is focused on solving the problem of choosing between or managing multiple good options, however, it will assume that the task is easy for you and it will redirect its efforts to something much more useful: getting really creative. It will be less fear-oriented and more opportunity-oriented. It will relax because its new problem is an embarrassment of riches.
As a result, your behavior will demonstrate a new level of confidence that is far more attractive to new opportunities. Before you know it, you’ll start acting as if what you desire is already a present fact—and that will feel really good.
What it Really Means to Release Your Attachment to an Outcome
Once we release our attachment to an outcome, it doesn’t mean that we’re any less interested in manifesting the goal. It simply means that we’re less interested in the fear of not achieving it. We’ve shifted our attention away from fear because we feel safe.
The problem with important goals is that waiting for them to manifest can fill us with fear that triggers our hearts and minds to close. We need to feel safe in order to open them back up again.
That’s why a compassionate approach is so vital. It helps us take a breath, open up, and release our grip on trying to control when and how our goal manifests. The key is gentle but persistent nurturing.
That’s how we release our attachment to an outcome—by making ourselves feel safe enough to release it.
I’d love to hear from you. How do you feel about letting go? Let me know!