Non-attachment seems to be against everything we’ve learned: ambition, competition, beating out the slower contenders, winning, 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. A few examples 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 creative work accepted into an upcoming gallery show. Attachment to outcome move: You interview the gallery curator to discover what the show is about. Not exactly your favorite topic or medium, but you are an artist and can do 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 an artist. You also start to make snarky comments about the gallery owner.
Non-attachment to outcome move: You interview the gallery curator to discover what the show is about. Not exactly your favorite topic or medium. You thank the curator and ask to be kept on their list for future shows. You have free time to pursue your own creative work and have a piece ready for another show at another time.
Someone you know on Facebook posts her latest (in a long series) humble-brag. 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, and congratulate her.
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 wishes she could hit the stride of non-attachment more often.