Letting Go of the Outcome

Into the Vortex by Issi Noho

Into the Vortex by Issi Noho

One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned as a human being, regardless of how I identify myself at any given moment–mother, wife, employee, or writer–is learning to let go of outcomes. Any outcome. For me, my passion is always invested in whatever task I tackle, sometimes greatly and in large, blinding quantities and sometimes in a perfunctory way that may seem to carry just a smidge of caring light, a limn around the edges. I put my heart and soul in my work, my blood, sweat, and tears and pray that it is good enough, right enough, or just enough.

And then there’s that little voice in my head that says, “Finish what you start!” which means to me that I must follow through to the bitter end whatever task I begin and the finish has always been tied intimately with the outcome. How did the project turn out? Am I happy with the outcome? Does it fit the model of expectation? More importantly, does the outcome reflect well on me and my efforts and does everybody else like it?

Aha! There it is! My feelings about the outcome are tied directly to everybody else, to their ideas and thoughts and needs and expectations. We learn early on that every action makes an impact, every action must have a consequence, and so we do our thing, whatever our thing is, and wait for the response, for the vibrational impact, for the consequences, good or bad, relating to our action. We wait for the outcome in order to gauge where and how and when to take the next step. We are flummoxed if the response, in any form, never comes.

Writing is one of those endeavors that begs to be tied to an outcome. I am a writer, therefore, I write. The natural outcome should be that people read what I write and then make an informed decision based on a million tiny personal factors as to whether or not they like what I’ve written. This is how our society works. Create, display, sell, and repeat. The outcome comes at the end of the process when we are judged and deemed worthy or lacking by ourselves and others (mostly others) and despite our passion and joy, decide whether or not sales dictate a repeat of the process. Success is judged by the outcome of the effort, not by the joy, experience, education, and passion derived from the process itself.

I used to believe the fairy tale. I used to think that unless I got a book deal the first time around, I was a failure; unless I mimicked the efforts and the process of others that I was doing it wrong. And then one day I woke up and realized that it is the process of writing, of allowing those voices and images in my head to take control and tell their story that is my way of living–without tying myself forever and ever to some superficial gauge of success, to an outcome. I can do what I love to do and let go of the fantasy and expectation of what is supposed to happen next. Like a child, a story is born, shaped by life experience to the best of my ability, and then released into the world to make its own way.

My son at sixteen understood letting go of the outcome. When I expressed disappointment at the choices he was making for his life, he reminded me that it would be impossible for him to live up to the dream of him that I carried in my head. He could never live up to my expectations but he could live up to his own and his own were pretty daunting.

For me, letting go of the outcome means living in the moment–every moment. My life in this moment is full and rich and exciting and calm, peaceful and good and blessed. To continue along this path, I have only to embrace the next moment and the next in its turn, and forget about the outcome because there’s never an end. Moment by moment our lives unfold and we are simply riding the current to our next passionate surprise.

I also believe in Karma. But that’s a discussion for another day.

2 responses to “Letting Go of the Outcome

  1. Three things: 1) I enjoy your posts. 2) Although for your purposes, saying “I am a writer, therefore, I write.” is okay, it’s backwards. “I write, therefore I am a writer.” Action does not follow a static assessment, no more than “I am an apple, therefore I fall from a tree.” But I know you know this. Just didn’t want the niggling point missed.

    However, it seques to point 3): If you think, as did many cultures, of the journey to a destination as the finest (and necessary) of human actions, you may discover that happiness is arriving at that destination. It is the whole basis for the quest tradition coming from Norse mythology (and Greek.) What occurs after an arrival is another journey and has no bearing on the prior events. A writer who puts “The End” on any composition knows this happiness. Selling, distribution, praise: they are destinations for a different journey, and not of the writing self. They are of the lonely self, the eating self, the popularizing self. I way more prefer jaunts with my writing self over those, for I am the hero of the writing journey, whereas others must be the hero of those other adventures..

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  2. I’m sure those expectation or dreams of the 16 year old haven’t been realized as I saw them in that moment. My own learning to let go of the outcome has been an interesting path and thus, I have reimagined my dreams many times as my understanding of the world and myself changed. I like to think that it was having a mother, willing to let go of her version of my outcome and allow me to create my own that has made me a successful individual. It’s that same faith and understanding that has allowed me to reawaken to the world at 40 and realize that my dreams have mutated and will continue to my entire life so, it is time for a different path. A path in which I have reshaped my life from one of deadlines and never ending projects to one of timeless joy in which I set my own pace and outcomes, both in terms of success and completion.
    Thanks Mom!

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