Many people are unhappy because life doesn’t turn out the way we want. Our happiness is attached to specific outcomes which don’t always materialise. By detaching from outcomes, we can find happiness in the process. It won’t matter whether or not the outcome materialises. How do we do this?
1. Identify possible outcomes
Simplify the possible outcomes to two broad categories. You will either get what you want, or you won’t. For instance: either you get the job or you don’t; either he will come back to you or he won’t.
2. Plan the best action for each outcome
The best action is the one that makes you better off no matter which outcome happens. This also tends to be the best way we can treat ourselves in any case. Here’s an example:
After a break-up it is common to hope that the other person comes back to us. If he comes back, then there is no need to grieve and your best action is to continue exercising so you’ll be in great shape when he sees you again. If he does not come back, your best action is still to continue exercising through your grief. Then, you’ll be in great shape to find happiness by dating other people.
The outcome makes no difference to our best course of action. This works because we have chosen a course of action that is the best thing we can do for each outcome.
3. Find happiness in the action
Now we can focus on the action which is within our control, rather than the outcome which is outside our control.
If we have done Step 2 above well, this action will bring us happiness in two ways. First, we feel confident that we are in control of our lives. Second, our actions will bring tangible benefits such as a better appearance. This gives a double boost to happiness.
Bonus: Help others find happiness
When we detach from outcomes, we also release those around us from the need to produce our desired outcomes. This frees them to be themselves, to live their own lives freely and joyfully instead of trying to fulfill some need in ours.
Conversely, if they are the ones making demands on you, learn to detach from their problems.
Very often, our detachment from outcomes and the joy it brings makes us attractive to others who then want to be around us. By detaching from what we want, we very often get what we used to want. And even if we don’t get it, it doesn’t matter because we’ve detached from those outcomes. We can be happy no matter what.