I’m training Daisy to recall at the whistle. It’s a rewarding if lengthy process. In the house or garden she’s solid, but out in the wild, when there are other dogs to play with and disgusting things to eat in the undergrowth, it’s sometimes a different story. I persevere because it’s important and, one day, a solid recall might save her from danger. The outcome matters.
I spent too many days of my life wondering if I measure up, trying to establish whether or not I’m good enough. If this weren’t destructive enough, I’ve often compounded it by relying on other peoples opinions rather than my own. It’s all outcome. Relentlessly pushing on to a place I didn’t set out to reach for no reason other than a belief that I needed to get there in order to control how others saw me.
When we are searching for positive validation we are focused solely on how things turn out. This means that everything else becomes less important, including our own needs for a rich and enjoyable life.
Talking with a client this week who measures his value as a human being by calculating his tangible success I feel exhausted just being exposed to his exacting criteria. I wonder how on earth he avoids complete collapse by being so demanding of himself. Then I realise that the way I used to view myself is not so different.
We can fixate on outcome in such a variety of ways. It might be that we crave financial success or professional achievement, or it could be that we want to be liked and admired by everyone. It doesn’t matter really because the consequence is always the same. There is no interest in the road travelled, only the destination.
Being a therapist helped me to let go of outcomes like nothing else ever has. I really want positive change for the people I work with, but I have no control over how their story ends, and I rarely get to see how it does. All I have is the beautiful journey, for however long it lasts.
While we focus on controlling the outcome we lose faith in our ability to deal with the unexpected. While we crave certainty we forget the need for uncertainty which is, fundamentally, life’s central motivation.
While I was writing this piece news came to me of the death of an old friend who, along with his business partner, played a pivotal role in my late teens and twenties. I feel the influence of those days constantly, not through the pursuit of any particular goal, but through a willingness to be touched and shaped through genuine human connection. If help were needed to remember that outcomes are, ultimately, already determined here it was. For all the striving we do to achieve, and for all the unwillingness to accept that we are good enough as we are I am reminded that any achievement is dwarfed in its importance by intent, purpose, influence, and the joy which comes with all of them.
This morning, as the sleet fell through a skeletal canopy of trees, I looked down to see that Daisy was happily trotting along at my feet. In that moment outcome was irrelevant because there was nothing to achieve, nothing to strive for, nothing to prove, and it felt good.