Ever wondered why some decisions, projects or relationships feel light and easy, and others leave you with a knot in your stomach? If you are experiencing fear or anxiety about a future interview, meeting or pitch, this is because you are making it about you. In other words you are attached.
We are all taught from an early age to identify with doing. “I am this potato print,” “I am this essay,” “I am this ball game.” All too often parents, teachers and friends relate to us as what we do. So, it is no wonder that as adults we continue to identify so strongly with achievements and outcomes.
When your ego is wrapped up in what you’re doing, it’s no fun for anyone
Attachment is a personal contract we make that says “If this project succeeds then I am a success, and if it fails I am a failure.” And, paradoxically, while we may not have much control over how our ideas or proposals are received by others, when we’re attached to success we seldom take responsibility for the one area where we could have control: who we are being and how we occur.
Attachment is heavy for others to be around. When you’re attached your ego is so wound up in a plan or project that it becomes impossible for others to give any feedback. There’s no space for any input, let alone room for clients, colleagues or friends to propose changes to whatever you’re proposing. There is no chance for others to feel joy, or lightness or self-expression when you’re holding on so tightly and making it all about you.
Attachment is no fun for you either. A big part of my job as a coach is supporting clients to see life as a game. And when your ego is tightly wrapped up in what you’re doing or making, it’s hard to be playful and creative, or bring your best to the game.
I am privileged to have coached several visual artists, and you may be able to understand how easy it is for a sculptor or a painter to identify so much with their sculpture or painting that there is no separation between them and their work. “My paintings are me.”
You can do everything in your power to make something happen, without making it all about you
Even for an artist it is possible to be 100% committed to an outcome without being attached. No one could doubt artist Damien Hirst’s commitment to creating a global brand, but he obviously doesn’t see his output as being all about him. When asked by Sarah Borruso about his artist statement in 1997, here’s what he came up with: ‘Nothing is a problem for me. The only interesting people are the people who say, Fuck off. This is what I think.’
Being committed without being attached is a new contract with yourself that says: “I will do everything in my power to make this happen, but I will not make the outcome all about me.” This way of being includes the possibility of experiencing lightness and fun.
When someone is committed but not attached, they’re saying “I had a thought I’d love to share with you,” “how about this,” “maybe we could try it this way,” “I’d love your input.” And when we’re on the receiving end of someone who is committed but not attached we feel free to try out whatever it is they’re proposing. When someone is unattached they create the space for us to say ‘No, it’s not right for me,’ which is essential in order for us have the freedom to say ‘yes, count me in.’ Only when we can say no, can we say yes with any power.
Your value as a human being has nothing to do with the success of your projects or plans
So, whether a looming deadline is giving you sleepless nights, or an upcoming work meeting is causing you to feel tight in your stomach, there is another way. If you can say: ‘This project is my responsibility and I commit fully to a positive outcome, but whether it succeeds or fails will not impact who I am or how I see myself,’ this is being committed without being attached. You are not what you do. Who you are, your value as a human being has nothing to do with the success or failure of your projects.