Detachment is an amazingly powerful tool that I wish I had understood much earlier in life. The practice of detachment involves many things, but one of the most important is the habit of judging people, actions, and circumstances as being right or wrong, good or bad. As Deepak Chopra says in “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success,” when you are constantly classifying, labeling, and evaluating, you “create a lot of turbulence in your internal dialogue.” The more internal bickering that takes place, the less time and room (in your mind) for constructive thinking. Worry, irrelevant thoughts, and fears add to this internal back and forth dialogue in your mind. It is self-defeating mind chatter that you should first become aware of, then make a conscious effort to detach yourself from. Also, detach yourself from needing the approval of others. When you are attached to peer approval, you are doubting your ability, your likeability, your talent and YOUR POWER. Not external power, the power that is inherent in yourself and that is waiting for you to tap into!
Then there is the pain and discomfort of your present situation. The more you struggle against the unpleasant circumstances of the moment, the more time and energy you waste. It’s okay to want things to get better down the road, but don’t waste time and energy wishing things were different than they are right now. I remember a time years ago that I struck up conversation with a guy I used to always see at a coffee shop I’d be at a lot. We got chatting about the challenges of self-employment when he said something that has stuck in my mind since. “You know Grant,” he interjected as I described fighting through some particular business issue, “only when you completely accept and be at peace with the present situation as it is, can that situation change.” Wow, that impacted me immediately and I told him so – I thanked him for the insight. That perspective on my challenges took a few hundred pounds off my shoulders, and you what? The obstacles suddenly seemed far less daunting and things started working out in ways that pleased me!
Accepting your present situation means detaching yourself from the pain it is causing you. Learn to accept some pain as a normal part of your life situation from time to time. This means, paradoxically, that the best way to eliminate pain is to not try to eliminate it. The more you fight pain, the more you are focused on it, the more it persists. Accept it, feel it, and then move into the present moment. It may sound simplistic, but you can choose to feel better right now.
Above all, learn to detach yourself from specific results. Practice the art of being flexible. Understand that circumstances constantly change and that things rarely work out precisely as planned. The results you end up with may be much different from the results you were after, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be less satisfying. If you are too attached to a specific result, it shuts down your creativity. Don’t be rigid in your approach. Trust that good things are coming your way and they always have a way of showing up!
The quickest and most certain way to achieve a goal is to mentally focus on what you want, and attach very strong feelings to what it will feels like when you have achieved it. Jack Canfield calls it “acting as if.” If you picture a result without attaching strong feelings to it, it’s no more than a thought. And that’s where the subtle connection between desire and letting go comes in. Having strong feelings about wanting something in your life is a good thing. The stronger your feelings, the better. But, at the same time, you have to let go and allow it to come to you – perhaps in a different form than you expected. If a specific objective becomes an obsession – if you believe that you can’t be happy without achieving it – your feelings pass the point of diminishing returns and your focus becomes counterproductive. In fact, you are probably so focused on not having it, that you are attracting more of that!
All this does not mean that you should permanently resign yourself to the circumstances of your currently bad situation. Nor does it mean that you should give up your desire or intention for a specific result. What you should give up is your attachment to that result. Or, as Chopra puts it, you should “accept the present and intend the future.”
When you become adept at detachment – from pain, from evaluating and classifying everything that crosses your path, from precise results – it gives you the time, energy, and mental clarity to focus on the single most important activity for overcoming an impossibly bad situation: exploiting opportunities. What opportunities? The opportunities that are part and parcel of every “impossible” situation. Based on personal experience, I am convinced that the greatest opportunities lie in the eye of the storm – at the very center of your worst problems.
Use your will to detach yourself from your impossible situation and, instead, spend your time cultivating the opportunities it has brought into your life – keeping in mind that such opportunities may be heavily camouflaged. To paraphrase Napoleon Hill from his book “Think and Grow Rich,” In every difficult situation, there exists the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.