You want something.
To smash that interview and land that job with all the perks. To ace the business meeting and get that huge contract. To tear up the opposition and come out victorious in your football game.
Whatever it is, you want it so bad.
You start to imagine what it would be like if you get what you want, and excitement fills you up. You get a rush just thinking about it.
But soon your mind turns to imagining what it would be like if you don’t get it, and that’s a whole different rush altogether. Not a nice one. Anxiety begins to take over, and a feeling of frustration or urgency tells you…
I have to get this right.
So, naturally, you plow all your energy in working out how to get the outcome you want. You put in work, you think about strategies. Maybe you even obsess over it.
It’s all well and good to do as much preparation as you can. But what happens when this enthusiasm and drive tips over into feeling stressed, pressured and frustrated? Usually, all that stress takes a toll on our performance.
If you’re making an important speech, for example, your mind might go blank, and you forget everything you’re meant to say. You can’t get in ‘the flow, ’ and your speech is stilted and awkward.
Or if you’re playing a basketball game, you might want to win so badly you end up getting overly aggressive. A few fouls and you’re out of the game altogether.
This is hugely frustrating, and despite all that preparation and angst you’ve put in, you’ve ended up with exactly what you didn’t want – failure.
So what’s the answer?
It’s actually quite counterintuitive. Strange, even.
The answer could actually be to detach emotionally from the outcome. When we fix our minds in the future, trying to control it, we end up with a whole load of anxiety. It’s all well and good to make goals, but when we obsess with trying to control outcomes, it only leads to frustration and poor performance.
On the other hand, the people who succeed in life and business often take a different approach. Instead of obsessing about reaching specific outcomes, they do the following:
- Set their goal
- Detach emotionally from it
- Get back to the present moment
- Work towards the goal
- Accept the outcome – success is great, and failure is a learning curve
Fashion publicist, television personality, and New York Times Bestselling author Kelly Cutrone says, “Detachment doesn’t mean I’m trying less hard. It just means that fears and emotions that used to torment and paralyze me longer have the same power over me.”
So just how do we do this? Detaching emotionally from an outcome we really want can seem impossible at times. But here’s our formula for doing so:
Step 1 – Think vividly about the outcome you don’t want – losing the game, not getting the job, failing your presentation. Really try to put yourself in the emotional state you’d feel if that outcome were to be a reality.
Step 2 – Write down the messages that would pop into your head under these circumstances. Maybe try a stream of consciousness – just open a blank document and vent as you would if you’d lost.
You might write things like:
All that effort was for nothing.
I always fail everything I do.
My dad was right about me always coming second, never first.
I’ll never get another job.
I won’t have enough money to pay the rent.
Let your mind take you as far as you dare to go – some of these thoughts can get really dark! These thoughts are what create the underlying anxiety and fear we have around trying to control outcomes.
Step 3 – Address each of the thoughts you’ve written down in turn. If they are fatalistic, try to make them more positive. If they are practical, try to think of solutions you can implement in the meantime, to take pressure off you. For example:
"I’ve failed in business, and I always fail," could become, "I understand that entrepreneurship isn’t a guarantee, and there will always be failures and successes. If I don’t achieve as I want to this time, I’ll reflect on everything and see what I can learn. Then I can apply this new knowledge to my next project."
If I don’t land this dream job, I won’t have enough money to pay my rent could become, This is a job I would love, but it isn’t the only means of making money available. I’ll take a part-time job in the meantime to cover the rent.
Make sure you’ve covered all the underlying worries.
Step 4 – Once you’ve expelled your hidden anxieties, try to get back into the present moment. Physical activity, massage, relaxation, and music are great ways to do this. When you’re training or working toward your goal, keep in mind that the preparation itself is valuable, as is the experience you’re going to have.
Reaching the outcome you want would be wonderful, of course, but even if you don’t manage it this time, you’ll have gained experience and a much more relaxed, optimistic outlook.
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