We tend to focus a lot on outcomes in our society.  Outcomes are how we evaluate success.  That project didn’t achieve the stated outcome, so we brand it as a failure.  The business is no longer a going concern, so it’s a bust.  Maybe we don’t get the promotion we were longing for, or a particular dream job, and we make ourselves miserable thinking about what could have been.  What should have been. 

Focusing solely on outcomes is a recipe for misery

I realize this headline may sound ironic coming from a woman who in a former career was responsible for pulling together performance dashboards and kpi updates, but I’ve found it to be true.  For many of us it would behoove us to embrace the Buddhist concept of non-attachment.  Which isn’t the same as not caring or becoming apathetic.  Let me share an example of what I mean by this.

I love what I do as a career and leadership coach and facilitator.  In many ways I look at it as a vocation, rather than a job.  I’m deeply attached to the purpose of enabling and helping others to be effective and to develop clarity of purpose, compassion for self and others and confidence.  But my work in this space can feel like heaven, or it can also feel like hell.  And a lot of the difference has to do with how attached I am to certain outcomes.

Any job can be heaven or hell

Take career coaching for instance – there have been occasions when I’ve been sucked into my client’s outcome, that attachment to finding the perfect job or the perfect career (even though I emphatically assert there is no perfect job or career!).  I become aware of when that happens because I start noticing a few things.  I start worrying more than usual about my client interactions.  I worry they’re not getting enough out of the coaching process, or what they would say about me as their coach.  I start to worry about my reputation and whether I’ll get a bad review.  If it gets extreme, I start judging myself – maybe I should have suggested this or that.  I even start questioning my credibility as a coach.  And when that happens, I find myself violating my own rules as a coach, because I move from curiosity and inquiry into tell mode.  I lose sight of the fact that my role as a coach is to facilitate the process and instead try to drive the outcome.  In essence, I get overly attached to the client’s outcome and as a result make myself miserable and drive myself crazy.

When I practice non-attachment that same interaction can look and feels very different.  The reason it feels so different is because I’m not attached to the outcome, and if I’m not attached to the outcome I can rest fully in the present moment. I’m not worrying about the question I just asked and whether it was good enough.  I’m not worrying about the future and whether a specific outcome will be achieved.  I’m 100% connected to the client in the here and now and given that I’m fully connected and have no agenda, I can stay open and curious.  I can test an intuitive hit.  I’m not afraid to ask a provocative question or to share feedback with the client that might sting a bit but would really benefit them to hear.  I can hold space for my clients in a way that adds value.  And as a result, the interaction is joyful.  Joy, just in case you were wondering, is only possible in the present moment.  Which is a big part of the reason why we’re missing so much of it in our lives. 

Even this blog…

Take this blog as another example.  For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been sick.  Sicker than I’ve been in years – a week of the flu which then morphed into a week of a sinus infection.  I’m only finally feeling better after about three weeks.  And I started to feel the pressure of not writing, the fact that I wasn’t delivering the outcome that I promise readers – one blog per week.

And what a drag writing this blog became.  I felt in my body the tenseness as I sat down to write.  I was going to force myself to write this.  Force the outcome.  As soon as I realized that I was more attached to the outcome and just getting this out the door, rather than leaning into the process of writing, the enjoyment of what I discover as I write these blogs, the connection I create with readers, my mindset shifted.  And low and behold this blog is now finished!

Coaching questions for thought

  • Where am I overly attached to outcomes?
  • What is this attachment costing me? 
  • What would happen if I let go of the outcome and focused on the process or the journey?  What would I feel instead?

Shelley Pernot is a career and leadership coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their talents and step into their greatness.  Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!

  1. Ian September 30, 2023 at 6:11 pm

    These blogs are so good that I never want to let one go by without reading it… so they wind up on my “to-do” list rather than my quiet moments for reflection…. your focus on the process and taking a break gave me a chance to take a break… and really read this blog… instead of marking it off my to-do list. Thank you!!!