This is a bold statement, but I have a theory. And, as an introvert, I have a tendency to think these things through before putting them ‘out there’.
My theory on the secret to happiness is this:
Let go of your attachment to the outcome of the choices you make or the things you do in your life.
You see, we all think that we have control over these things. That we are the makers of our destiny. And the more out of control we feel, the more we usually try to control things (does anyone feel that even the world itself is dominating and forceful in fairly unpleasant ways?)
Yes, to some point, we are the ones who choose to follow the white rabbit and take the red pill (Matrix reference, for anyone I lost for a second there). But when Neo did that, he had no idea that he was The One.
He made choices along the way, but he could neither control nor predict the outcome.
But, I digress. We’re talking about the secret to happiness here – not destiny or fate or kick ass sci-fi movies.
When you detach from the outcome you:
Get really present with your decisions, instead of worrying about the future
Oh I know we are exceptionally good at this. Hello, over thinking and destroying all our good ideas before they even get a chance to breathe. We need to learn to cross that bridge when we come to it. Trying to predict outcomes and plan for those is what Steven Pressfield (author of The War of Art) would call procrastination. Get your mind out of the future and into the now. You’ve got work to do here.
Focus on the journey instead of the destination
You know, everyone wise has said it. When you attach what you do now to some desirable expectation or outcome, you are ignoring the sage words of many, many inspirational quotes and you’re missing out on all the good stuff!
Take the steps. Make the decisions. Do whatever it is you need to do. And take in the scenery along the way. Breathe. Enjoy the damn journey otherwise you’re missing the damn point!
Release all expectations
Expectations generally lead to one thing: disappointment (you’ve seen that split screen in 500 Days of Summer, right? Watching Joseph Gordon-Levitt get his heart broken was enough for me to let go of expectations forever).
There’s also an air of entitlement to them that means you feel you deserve something in particular as a result or payoff for the work or the effort you put in or the choices you make now.
Do you love someone with the sole purpose that they will love you back? No. (well, hopefully not). You love someone because you can’t not. You love someone despite the vulnerability and not knowing how it will end. You just love.
Open yourself up to unlimited possibilities
There’s a (very good) chance that there are more possibilities out there for you than the ones your mind can conceive of. We are, most often, what gets in our way of true success, because we seriously limit what we think we’re capable of. What if you could open your mind to the prospect of unlimited possibilities?
When you let go of outcomes, you allow yourself the freedom that anything is possible. You take the pressure off yourself to force an outcome, trusting that every action has a reaction – but you aren’t in charge of deciding what that is. Your role is to do the first part and let it go.
Trust in something greater than you
I’m not going to get all spiritual with you here but, regardless of your beliefs, there are spiritual, scientific, and metaphysical explanations for the way we think the Universe works. Energy. Universal forces. Named spiritual entities of your choice.
What if you could believe that what you put out (energetically, spiritually, emotionally) had the potential to come back to you. If you put our worry and negativity, boom, guess what? If you do your best work and then release it, letting it reach who it needs to, allowing it to touch the lives of one person or 1000, and then moving on to the next thing – which do you think is more effective? I’ll give you one guess. The energy you put out into the world will bubble away and transform and multiply in ways that you and I don’t have any control over.
So why do we always try to control it? We push and strive and wish on stars that things will go the way we want. But when was the last time something amazing happened that you didn’t expect? When in your life have things worked out exactly as you planned, but you were left feeling empty?
If we just kept focusing on what-it-is-we’re-trying-to-do and allow things to play out as they will, not only do we take the pressure off ourselves, we also allow feelings of joy, freedom, and happiness into our lives.
Do you know someone who always gets carried away trying to control the outcome? Share this post with them and help them learn to let go and discover the secret to happiness.