Now You Can Have All the Success and Less Stress at the Same Time

You just have to work your “Detachment Muscle.”

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where someone else comes to you for advice and you put your Yoda-cap on to unleash fires of wisdom?

I know. That feeling is wonderful

But when you find yourself in the same situation, you seek others’ advice on the matter? All of a sudden, you’re not so sure about what to do.


Well, one reason is that you’re drowned deep enough in the problem to have any clarity. But there’s a subtler reason. And the reason is a lack of detachment.

The reason behind your lack of clarity is your emotional attachment to the outcome.

When you seek an outside opinion from a person, he does not have to face the consequences of what he suggests. He doesn’t face the psychological pressure of making the right choice. He doesn’t care about the consequence as you do. Hence, he can give you an unbiased outlook on the matter that you long for.

This happened to me a few days ago. One of my connections was struggling with operational problems in his startups. At the same time, he was looking for investors to come on board.

Given my experience in running my startup, he reached out to me.

It was flattering, to say the least. After all, I’d always been on the other side of the equation. Further, to my surprise, I found myself giving him the perfect advice for every problem. He thanked me for my time and cut the call.

As I thought more about the conversation, I couldn’t help but look back to my own experience as a founder. I struggled with the same problems. I too wanted to make money, have effective operations, and raise funds.

Yet, I could never think with the same level of conviction I did.

That’s when the power of detachment revealed itself to me.

Can You Try Too Hard?

“When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; but when you try to sink, you float.” — Alan Watts

Life is ironic. The more you run after something, the more it gets away. The moment you stop running, things finally start to fall in place.

This has monstrous implications for our lives. For one, it tells us not to try too hard to succeed. The harder you try, the difficult it will be for you to achieve your goal.

Rumi says it best

“When I run after what I think I want, my days are a furnace of stress and anxiety; if I sit in my own place of patience, what I need flows to me, and without pain. From this I understand that what I want also wants me, is looking for me and attracting me. There is a great secret here for anyone who can grasp it.”

On the face of it, it seems like bad advice. Advice that you’ll never read in a self-help book.

We all believe that focus and hard work are great virtues to have. And indeed they are. Every success story is filled with tales of fierce focus and perseverance. It’s the common rags-to-riches story we all are tired of at this point.

Yet, there’s a point that’s always missing. There’s a problem with the common “work hard, play hard” mentality.

When we focus too much on the destination, we start thinking about it every waking moment. You lose sleep over the outcome. You fear you aren’t good enough. There is a fine line between prudence and paranoia. This is when you cross that line.

That my friend needs to be fixed.

To kickstart the fixing process, you need to realize that it’s a problem. Most people don’t realize the degree of damage this lifestyle can do.

Think about it this way. A gardener, who wants to grow a tree with plant the seed and water it every day. But he won’t dig it every day to see if it has grown.

He is clear about what he wants, he also does the work needed, but he lets go and allows nature to do its thing.

In everything you do, be like the gardener.

Water the Plants

The only way to reach your goals is to focus on daily actions, and systems that you know will get there. Water the plants. Put in the fertilizer. And then relax.

Focus on doing everything that’s in your control to reach your goal. Once you’ve done that, don’t lose sleep over whether you’ll achieve it or not.

If a sales rep is focused too much on the commission that he’s going to make, he isn’t going to focus on the customer. And when he doesn’t take into account the needs of the customer, the deal falls off.

But what if he did the opposite? What if, instead of thinking whether he’ll close the deal or if he’ll hit his targets, he focused on the customer journey?

This would have a three-fold effect:

  • It would improve the odds of closing the deal

  • It would make him more productive by not stressing about the outcome every moment.

  • He would be able to reach his goal in a relaxed manner without burning himself out.

The Power of Detached Focus

If an entrepreneur is too attached to his product’s success, he will ignore market feedback. In favor of focusing only on the product, he ignores customers, employees, and the world in general.

Over attachment to the goal is bad in all sorts of ways.

Here’s how to find out if you’re too attached to the outcome.

Ask yourself if how would you feel if things didn’t turn out well?

Chances are, you’ve fantasized about success so much that you’re not ready for failure. This takes your leverage away.

When failure hits you, it’s far better for it to be expected rather than a surprise. It pays to imagine the worst-case scenario and preparing for it.

This would then give you the inner strength to say — “You know what, even if it doesn’t work out, I’ll be okay.” With this comes equanimity.

Once you’ve let go of the attachment, bring your attention to the present moment.

If it helps, you can have certain phrases to help you do that. For example, when I go for an interview, sales meeting, or publish an article I often say — “Let thy will be done.”

I have faith in the higher power to take its course. By doing this, I detach myself from the outcome because it’s not in my control.

When you do this, you’ll unlock a before unknown reserve of energy and creativity inside you. Things often start to flow well.

Detachment thus brings success more often than not.

How To Work Your Detachment Muscle

Therefore, only those who act without being attached to the fruits of his action, but as a matter of performing his duty, can attain the Supreme — The Bhagavad Gita

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna that acting with detachment means doing the right thing for its own sake, because it needs to be done, without worrying about success or failure.

Detachment doesn’t mean that you can cop out of doing the right thing. It’s not about being a goodie-goodie every time. It’s a tool to act with grace in the face of pressure.

The way to work on your detachment is to start with the small stuff.

Here are a few examples from my life:

  • Detaching myself from my clothes

  • Not caring if the dining table is not set in the ‘right’ way.

  • Detaching from my routine. To not be thrown off if something abruptly pops up (this is still a work in progress)

  • Detaching myself from doing the things at work only the way I like them and embracing feedback more.

  • Detaching myself from the success of this post, or anything I write online. This way, I can enhance my creativity and not fear failure.

  • Detach from the amount of money I make

  • Detach from others opinion of me

Look for such small opportunities in your day to practice detachment. So when push comes to shove you have the inner strength you need to persevere. You cannot detach from bigger things unless you let go of the small ones.

They are anchors that you cannot take on your journey. You must let them go if you want to move forward.

Finally, from a spiritual perspective, it’ll be best if you practice detachment as an offering. As the Gita says: Offer the fruits of your labor to God. This is the most liberating practice I’ve found.

Offer the food you’re eating, the business you’re building, the art you’re creating, your emotions, desires, and passions all to God (or whatever higher power you believe in).

Once you do that, you’ll open yourself up to Greater Consciousness which is far more beautiful and blissful than our little egoic consciousness.

That is the greater purpose of detachment and one of the only ways to be liberated.

Final Thought

Maybe you didn’t sign up for the level of spiritual detail I went into. Yet, I hope you realize, regardless of your beliefs, detachment can connect you to something bigger, and make life happier.

In the end, detachment is nothing more but freedom from our little emotional entanglements that prevent us from doing the best we can.

Don’t ask for certainty. Don’t ask for safe journeys. Rather, ask for the power of detachment in the face of trials so you can make the best of the one life you have.

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Written on November 26, 2020