Not Wanting What You Want

December 12, 2012  

Some will claim that a component to happiness and success involves detachment.  That is, not worrying about how things turn out.

But this is easier said than done!

People want what they want.  And the more you try to not want something, the more you focus on it.

How do you break this cycle?

While working on Goal-Free-Living, I discovered a useful way to become detached: Attach yourself to something of higher value.

That is, replace the “unhealthy” attachment with a “healthy” one.

For example, if you are in sales and really want to close the deal, you might come off as desperate or pushy.  This usually prevents you from getting what you want: the sale.  The solution? Attach yourself to serving customers rather than focusing on the sale.

Or, if you want to stop a bad habit, replace it with a healthier habit.  Every time I tried to kick my Diet Coke habit many years back (I drank as much as 5 liters a day back in the late 90′s), all I could think about was the vending machine near my desk.  When I chose to drink two liters of water a day (a healthy attachment), without worrying about how many cola’s I drank, my habit was immediately kicked.  Yes, I still had a can from time to time. But the obsession ended and I could focus on work rather than soda.

In the workplace, this can have profound results.

Doug Busch, former Chief Information Officer at Intel once told me, “The best things I have ever done in my career came shortly after I decided that the best thing that could happen to me is that they fire me.”

This is detachment in action. Detachment is not indifference. It is about acting with a commitment to the future while focusing on the present.  When not worried about “keeping his job” he could do his best work.  He no longer played it safe.

If you are in a job interview, remaining detached would mean listening carefully and answering honestly, without concern about the outcome. You will come across as more confident and authentic.  And then you can truly determine if they are right for you, rather than worrying if you are perfect for them.

If you are going to attach yourself to something else, make sure it is healthy.  Some people, to avoid conflict, will avoid it altogether creating more problems in the long run. For example, some people will “attach” themselves to work so that they don’t have to deal with domestic issues. This isn’t a healthy attachments; it is a distraction.

How can you tell if your attachments are healthy? Healthy attachments should:

  • be present moment focused and not about achieving a future objective
  • have you engage and interact with others
  • (potentially) be in service of, or contributing to others
  • increase the level of honesty in your interaction with others

In the book I quoted David Wood the (then) Vice Present of Sales for the Americas for the Bose Corporation. He said, “I’m personally satisfied at the end of the day if I made a difference for someone personally; if someone’s efforts were furthered along with my help. I have this intense desire to feel like I have made an investment in someone else and the company. I am not driven by money or status. I’m not even comfortable partaking in privileged company benefits. Rather, I am driven by contribution, what I do, and the value I add.” This is a very healthy attachment.  And it helped him be a successful leader.

How can you improve your life through the concept of detachment?

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