This advice displays another part of life that is very paradoxical. Which is also why It’s a piece of advice that is hard to implement. It’s paradoxical because in one sense, we have been taught to always do our best to achieve our goals. To never give up, and work hard to keep our motivation in all our endeavors. We can see from experience that when we do focus all our attention on a particular outcome, we are more likely to achieve that outcome. Many of the most successful people in the world will dish out that advice in many of their speeches.
However, as the title of this post entails, I don’t think that being so outcome dependent is always useful or effective. Being completely focused on an outcome means that you will become vulnerable to the possibility that it won’t be achieved. Maybe it can’t be achieved. Life is unpredictable, and to feel completely attached to the realisation of an event is in some sense silly. Yes, you might really really want this thing to happen, but the fact of the matter is that you can’t always make it happen. You can try your very best, give it everything you have, and still not come close to achieving your goals. Hell, sometimes even when you achieve your goals, they turn out to be unsatisfying.
The point here is, whatever outcome it is that you are trying to manifest in the world, it should not have any bearing on your happiness or feeling of accomplishment. Your internal state of bliss should always be present, regardless of externalities.
This sounds great in theory, but let’s face it. You’re not living your life in such a state of bliss. That’s OK though. Most of us aren’t living in that state all the time. But it might be possible to be in that state more frequently. It’s possible to cultivate this state by being more present or as Terence McKenna puts it, to be in touch with the ‘felt presence of direct experience’ (short video of speech found here). So, it means you should not be taken by culture, where you feel like all these outcomes are important. Having that body, or getting that job and so on, is not actually the point. You don’t need to be any different.
The attitude should be that you want to be different because it’s fun, challenging, amusing or whatever other reason that you can come up with. You should be trying to sculpt yourself because you’re creating art. It’s the same reason that you might feel like dancing or singing or playing the piano. The outcome is in the process and not the result. You are doing it with the full realisation that it’s temporary and is enjoyed while it’s happening. After the art has been created and matured, you appreciate it and move on to create more art. You should understand that the final piece of art is not the important thing. The value of it has already been taken, it was the process of creating the art that you truly experienced its value.
This truth seems to be a completely integral part of life. It appears at every level. When you’re having sex, you’re enjoyment comes from the process and not the outcome. It’s not the fact that you had sex, that makes sex great. It’s the process of actually having sex that makes it great. The same applies when you’re painting a picture, or designing a circuit, or solving that mathematical problem. In every act that we do, we feel most of the pleasure in trying to achieve something than the actual achievement.
I can see this even when meeting new people. It’s during the flirting, the exploration of the other person that we have the most fun. It’s in that process where the excitement lies. Sometimes relationships tend to die because people stop exploring each other. There is nothing left but the outcome. Yes, you do have a boyfriend, or the husband or whatever. But unless the relationship is constantly changing, growing and maturing, then it just becomes like that final piece of art. It’s beautiful and you appreciate it.
You might have spent years sculpting it, but maybe now it’s done. You look at this wonderful thing you have made and feel sad that you’re not going to work on it anymore. It’s time to create that new piece of art. It’ll be hard, and you don’t know how it’ll turn out, but hopefully you have gained more experience and can create a better one next time. Regardless, you are aware that it’s not about each single piece of art that you make where you find the enjoyment.
It’s not in the outcome where you find happiness, but rather in the love that you have for the process. That’s why I say, don’t be outcome dependent.