Outcome, Schmoutcome; Focus on the Journey
Several years ago I had the opportunity for a spiritual reading with a lovely woman. In the reading, I asked about my life purpose. What came back was my main life lesson. “Freedom from Self.”
For me, this comes down to finding freedom from tying my self-worth to external expectations and outcomes. Many of us believe things should work a certain way and when they don’t, we allow it to create anxiety within us and even suffer because of it. We develop expectations in our minds, and we become so wrapped up in making sure these outcomes happen, we lose our focus on the process and the journey involved (which is the point of living). These can be simple expectations of self like how we should look and dress to make sure we are “appropriate,” (do I have the right dress and is anyone else wearing it?) to something more complicated like our expectations of how other people should act and behave. Then, we judge ourselves or others when those expectations are not met. OR, we try to change our behavior, actions, and thoughts in an attempt to manipulate the situation to our liking. Controlling ourselves is hard enough, and when we start trying to control other people, it gets really out of hand. So for me, this lesson is about focusing on the here and now, the process, and not allowing my emotions and even self-esteem to be tied to some outcome I have created in my mind. Please don’t misunderstand. We should certainly have goals and intentions. However, when those expectations are not met, our choice is to let them go and move on, or wallow in them and use them to judge.
This particular life lesson came up yet again this week as I stepped on the scale during my 60-Day Challenge, anxious to see what number would pop up to confirm that I was working hard. And when that number did not match my expectations, I found myself getting into a frenzy, even though I have a proper plan. I started to worry. “Am I doing it right? Am I exercising enough? Should I eat different foods? Are my intentions strong enough? Why is the scale the same weight as yesterday? Maybe I should do some more research and see what other people are doing to lose weight faster?” Ugh! The mind just kicks into high gear! And why? All because of expectations around the outcome on any given day that the scale would reflect the exercise and food choices of the day before. (FYI – It doesn’t work that way – each day doesn’t change only because of the previous day. It’s cumulative.) Even with that knowledge, I still allowed my expectations (as unrealistic as they may be) to drive my emotional state. And, because my expectations were so specific and limited, I missed other wonderful things happening in the process. The fact that my lung capacity and heart rate are improving and my muscles are getting stronger completely alluded me because I was so tied to one specific thing – a number on a scale.
Obviously, the key here is to only weigh once per week, but for someone still working to release expectations, that scale is a draw for external validation on a daily basis. To help with this particular expectation, I am putting my scale into storage for the 60-day challenge and only using the official “weigh in” at the gym, but it was a great reminder that we need to put our energy into what is happening in front of us right now, at the moment. Make mindful choices of exercise and food in “real time.” That’s the journey, and that is where we can find the joy in living our lives. If we get the journey into the right mindset and vibration and release the need to focus on outcomes and expectations, everything else just falls into place. The reason to get physically healthy in the first place is to enjoy life more fully, and hopefully, spend more time in this body doing stuff we love with people we love. Getting and staying healthy is part of that. And when we obsess and focus only on the outcome (or number on the scale), we lose large chunks of our life we should be enjoying in the moment.
Here are a few tips for when you become upset because something or someone does not meet your expected outcomes:
1)First and foremost – BREATHE. Take 3 deep breaths in and out and become present. Then you can get curious about the situation in a more grounded way.
2)Ask yourself what outcome you were expecting and why this was so important to you. What significance does it have in the grand scheme of things?
3)Ask if you have created expectations not shared by someone else? If you expect a certain pattern of behavior from another person, is that also their understanding of how it should work and why is your “standard” more important than their “standard”?
4)Ask yourself if your reaction is out of proportion with the situation at hand. Often an overly emotional reaction to something is less about what someone else did and more about the mirror they have created for us to see things we don’t like in ourselves. It could be a trigger for a deeper fear or block that has nothing to do with the situation at hand.
5) Finally, release the expectation. Make a conscious choice that the outcome doesn’t matter. Let it flow through you. Go back to being present and bring your focus back to the present and back to the process at hand.
Hopefully these tidbits might help. I am very thankful for the lesson that continues to come up for me around gaining freedom from self, which includes releasing expectations for outcomes. What a blessing to remember that life is meant to be enjoyed (or “IN JOY”) and not to jump from one set of expected outcomes to another.