Some of the biggest conflicts we face are about the frustration we feel when we don’t follow through and achieve what we’ve set our minds on. This causes us to become prickly in our relationships and take our irritation out on others.
When I first started working in law enforcement, there were all kinds of mottos attached to our work: “Failure is not an option” and “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” We had to deliver, and deliver we did.
But by the time we got to the end of a busy stretch, people often felt like these phrases caused a great deal of unnecessary pressure.
What the heck is wrong with occasionally failing if it isn’t life or death?
Today, after coaching many folks through tough relationships and building solo businesses, I have a few new strategies that could be more useful. And they start with approaching your hopes and goals just a little differently:
- Identify something you want. This could be an actual thing, a new skill, a specific business result, a way of being or anything else.
- Allow yourself to become okay with the idea of not getting it.
Detach yourself from the outcome. Start becoming okay with the idea of things not turning out the way you want them to. This is sacrilege in the eyes of the Think and Grow Rich school, which recommends creating a burning desire for whatever you want. But what if your goal is to have no burning desire?
Having used the burning desire approach for many years, I found that I:
- got what I wanted;
- wasn’t satisfied with what I got;
- replaced it with a burning desire for something else.
Bertrand Russell is credited with saying that a clear sign of an impending nervous breakdown is the idea that your work is very important.
Ask yourself: In 100 years, what difference will it make?
Think of just how many things in your past seemed important at the time, but now you’ve forgotten what they even were.
Think of the goals you’ve set where you just knew it was going to happen and then it did.
Everyone has examples of things that just came together almost effortlessly – times when you knew you were going to get what you wanted, so you were able to relax. When you just know it’s going to happen, it’s easier to relax about it (I suspect this is the case for anyone who’s learned to walk or talk).
Think of an occasion where you wanted one thing, didn’t get it, then got something even better.
Even if you can’t think of a specific example of where things turned out way better than they would have if you got things the way you wanted, you can understand the idea. The world can be modelled as a large, complex system with its own logic and intelligence. If you act as though the system always has your best interests at heart, then you’ll always get good results (even when you don’t get exactly what you wished for).
Burning desires are tense; detachment is relaxed and open.
When you’re in a state of relaxed alertness, you have more of your resources available to act. As it happens, one of the key attributes of the most successful persuaders and influencers is that they put people at ease, and the quickest way to help someone else to relax is to be relaxed yourself.
I was once focused on securing what I thought would make a fun project. I was being compared to some solid talent as well. I’d been speaking with the meeting planner over several months, and at a face-to-face I decided to test detachment from the result (i.e. closing the deal).
Every time I found myself worrying about closing the deal, I just relaxed and told myself, “It doesn’t matter, everything’s okay,” and put my attention back on the prospective client. I was able to be far more resourceful and agile in my thinking than I had been, and I secured the gigs.
What would you change in your life if you knew everything would turn out okay?
Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications. For interview requests, click here.
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