Saturday, January 23, 2010

Are You Too Attached?

We can struggle for years with a problem--a habit we're trying to break, an addiction, weight loss, a job, a relationship--and then, in a single moment, we have an epiphany, that "ah-ha" moment when the thing we've spent so much time and energy trying to figure out or bring about, suddenly snaps into focus and becomes clear. It's like the moment in every episode of "Murder, She Wrote" (one of my all-time favorite TV series) when someone utters a seemingly innocuous remark and Jessica Fletcher says, "That's it! Of course!" and you know she has just figured out "who done it." This week, I had just such a moment.

For several years I've subscribed to life coach Cheryl Richardson's online newsletter, and always find her articles enlightening and inspiring. A couple of days ago, while perusing her website, I clicked on an application called "A Touch of Grace." The idea is to click on the app, close your eyes and focus on a challenge you're facing, then click one of several twinkling stars to receive a "grace" card.

Before I go any further, I want to make it very clear that I'm not superstitious, nor do I seek spiritual guidance from internet applications. But I do know that there is a power in the universe that is greater than we are, and that this supreme intelligence often uses simple things to confound the wise. So, when I clicked on a particular twinkling star, I wasn't expecting some deep revelation, but neither did I feel it was beyond the realm of possibility for God to use just such a simple thing to get my attention.

At my recent physical, for the first time in my life, some of my bloodwork came back with numbers that exceeded the normal range. Although I try to eat a healthy diet, my weakness is carbs: pizza, pasta, breads. After 61 years, the "free ride" was over, and my love affair with carbs had just smacked me upside the head--that wake-up call I mentioned last week. I immediately went into a 12-hour funk. Then I thought, "Okay, you made the commitment to be more positive this year. Here's the first test...what are you going to do about it?"

As a former teacher, board president, and committee chairman, my philosophy was to never ask a student or colleague to do anything I wasn't willing to do myself. I had shared on this blog that I was going to live in a positive way this year, and had invited others to take up the challenge with me. So, instead of allowing myself to get bogged down asking "Why me? Why now? Why did this happen when I try to be so careful?" I decided to ask myself, "What can you DO to change

The first thing I did was schedule an appointment with my doctor to discuss the results of the blood work and come up with a treatment plan to get those numbers back into the normal range--a positive action. Then, I reminded myself that my blood pressure, etc., had been fine just six months earlier, before I injured my right hand and ended up in a splint and physical therapy for five months. During that time, I'd let my good habits slip, and I'd had a hard time getting back to them. So, there was every reason to believe this situation could be turned around--positive attitude.

I began doing some simple stretches, began keeping a food journal again, and took stock of what needed to change (get back to eating more fruits and vegetables and fewer processed carbs), and wrote down a list of things to discuss with my doctor. As soon as I'd done those things--no, actually, as soon as I'd made the decision to do those things--my anxiety evaporated and I felt more in control, more at peace. It was at that point that I happened on the Touch of Grace app with the twinkling stars, closed my eyes, and thought about the challenge of losing weight since limited mobility and chronic pain make it extremely difficult for me to exercise. I opened my eyes, clicked on a star, and watched it morph into a "Grace card" that said, "Let go." It went on to say, "When we release our attachment to the outcome, we allow the power of grace to work its magic."

"Ah! Release the outcome!" Stop focusing on losing weight and concentrate on eating a healthy diet and moving enough to maintain as much flexibility and strength as possible. That wasn't really all that much of a revelation, though, because I'd heard that before--many times. But it made me feel more positive, less anxious about those pesky elevated numbers. I'd made a decision to do something about it, and that, in itself, made me feel better.

Then, a couple of days later, I had a really, truly Jessica-Fletcher-I-know-who-did-it bolt-from-the-blue revelation. Release my ATTACHMENT to the outcome. Obviously, my goal was to (a) get healthier, (b) get those numbers back into the normal range, and (c) lose weight. But all of a sudden I realized that as long as I held on tightly to the outcome, as long as the end result was my focus, I would never achieve my goals. Why? Because by stressing out over it, I'm engaging in self-sabotage.

If you're constantly focusing on what you're going to eat, what you ate that you shouldn't have eaten, how many times you've failed in the past, how hard it is to stick to a diet, and all the other defeatist self-talk we engage in, you're never going to lose that weight. Not only that, but it will affect your attitude about other things, too, and you won't be able to enjoy your day-to-day life. You are so attached to trying to make yourself lose weight, the harder you try, the more you fail. But if you focus on eating healthy and living a healthier lifestyle, and focus your attention on other things in life, the weight will come off over time. Eventually, your body will reach its goal and in the meantime, you'll be healthier and happier.

When I really let it sink in that I needed to release my ATTACHMENT to the outcome, I began to relax and enjoy making the changes in my life that I'd set as goals for this year. Instead of worrying about the destination, I started enjoying the journey. Instead of fretting over how much there still is to accomplish in order to reach my goals, I began to take pleasure in, and feel energized by, the daily progress being made. Instead of behaving like a drill sergeant about my goals, I let go of my attachment to them and made room for grace to manifest itself.

Are you too attached to your goals? Are you putting so much pressure on yourself that you want to just give up and stop trying? Maybe it's time to let go of your attachment to the goal and show yourself some grace so you can enjoy the journey. Let me know how you're doing in the comment section.

[If you'd like to check out Cheryl Richardson's website, newsletters, or try the Touch of Grace app, visit her website at]


  1. This week's gratitude log:

    1/15--Glad we could schedule Mindy's 6-month checkup with our excellent vet.
    1/16--Glad I took another look at my blood work and was relieved to discover that all but four items were normal. I'd initially misread the "key" and thought the check marks meant abnormal.
    1/17--Thankful for a day of rest, and that my daughter and son-in-law made it safely home from NJ.
    1/18--Grateful for those who share their positive thoughts that encourage me along the way.
    1/19--Thankful for authors who write spell-binding novels I just can't put down--even when I should be sleeping.
    1/20--I'm glad I decluttered today, even though I didn't feel like it; and for how energized I felt afterward.
    1/21--I'm grateful for those who share their comments on this blog, and that Mindy had lost another 2 lb. when we went to her vet checkup.

  2. Well, as always you are an amazing writer and you may have just given me an ahh-huh moment! Especially on the weight loss issue. I've been at this fight for so long I think my problem is I'm not sure what to fill my life/worry up with IF I should ever reach my goal. So, for me, getting to the goal isn't only just hard, but scary because without this long standing goal in my life - what am I going to do next? Very deep...will have to go check out that website, too.

  3. Thanks for the kind words. So many of the things we struggle with are the same things that others struggle with, too. Fear of success can be just as debilitating as the fear of failure because it involves the unknown. We become comfortable with our habits, even those that aren't good for us--the devil you know vs the devil you don't, as the saying goes-- that we're afraid to let go. But in order to make room for new and better things, we have to be willing to take that step.

    Achieving a goal doesn't leave a void, it fills one. After you reach a goal, enjoy the sense of accomplishment and celebrate that you now have an opportunity to pursue a new one. It is also empowering, because if you can achieve one goal, you can achieve another.

    Think about the things you'd like to do, places you'd like to go; but also, think about living in the moment. One very worthwhile goal is to accept yourself and enjoy your life right now, in this moment. It's the little moments--time spent with family and friends, enjoying a sunset or a cup of hot chocolate, savoring the smell of homemade bread, that we often overlook when we're focused on the long-term goals. Yet, it's all those little moments that make up a life. Another worthwhile goal is to commit to taking care of yourself, making sure you take time for you.

    I hope you'll enjoy Cheryl's website. Her FB and Twitter posts are very encouraging, too.

  4. Boy can I relate to this. I have been struggling to "lose weight" for years. Every year, I put it back on my New Year's resolutions. I've kind of taken a similar approach this year - focus on trying to get in more activity and focus on eating less volume but more fruits and veggies. I've done pretty well with volume control so far (except for the last 2 weeks in which we traveled both weekends), and we've definitely had more fruits and veggies than usual!

    My goals that I am putting pressure on myself for are obtaining the 2 certifications. I keep thinking about taking the certification tests and worrying about those without first even finishing the studying for it. I'm putting so much focus on the end result that it's making it more difficult for me to actually read and absorb the study material. For me, everything goes back to patience. I want the certification now! I want the promotion now! I want the weight loss now! If I just learned a little patience, I would be much less stressed and much more relaxed while trying to achieve that end result.

  5. When I had my follow up visit with the doctor this week, I shared with her how frustrating it is when I eat the right things and still don't lose weight. She told me not to focus on weight loss, but on eating a healthy diet. I realized that it takes a long time to lose weight in a healthy manner, but I can achieve a goal of eating a healthy diet every day--no waiting involved. So, I'm trying to shift my focus.

    Have you considered how you could use the process of losing weight and obtaining the certifications to learn patience? You're already a step ahead because you've identified the problems--you're putting too much pressure on yourself, and you need to release your attachment to the end result (losing weight, passing the certification tests). Ask yourself, for example, "What can I do to decrease the stress? How can I get my mind to relax so it can absorb the material I'm studying?"

    Here are some things you might try:

    1. When you're studying and feel stressed, like you can't concentrate, take a break. Go into another room so you physically remove yourself from the source of the stress for 10-15 minutes. Sit or lie down, close your eyes and do some relaxation breathing, listen to some peaceful music, or a combination of these. Shift your focus from the problem to something pleasant and relaxing.

    2. Try some affirmations such as: I welcome the challenge of learning new things. I focus on the present material before me, instead of on the future tests. The tests are a measure of what I learn, not a measure of my self-worth. I take care of myself so that I can do my best, and trust in a positive outcome. I practice patience by focusing on the present moment, and not on the future.

    If a friend came to you with the same concerns, what would you say to her? Listen to what your heart says and apply it to yourself. Try focusing on enjoying the process instead of the desired end result. Let us know how you're doing along the way.

  6. I LOVED this post, Donna! I am a big follower of Cheryl Richardson also and find so much help in her words, as well as her weekly radio show. I can appreciate letting go of the outcome, as I think many of us can get so caught up in that... and then we get frustrated. Being aware and returning to "letting go" has helped me tremendously. Having radio shows like Cheryl's and reminders from posts like yours helps us feel so not alone in our quests on our journeys.

    I really try to live in the moment too-- my dogs teach me that each and every day and I'm so grateful for that.

    Excellent post! Good luck with your new way of life and eating... btw they make tons of really good gluten free products these days, so you won't feel so deprived of your carbs (pasta, etc.) My system can not handle regular pasta anymore, but gluten free is a God-send.

    Barbara Techel
    Award winning author of the Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog Book Series
    My passion is bringing a positive face and voice to animals with disabilities
    Frankie is Official Mascot for National Disabled Pets Day and
    Wisconsin Pet Hall of Fame Companion Dog

  7. Tom, thank you for stopping by. I hope you'll visit again, soon.

    Barbara, thank you for your comments. I have a dog and two cats, and they teach me so much. We lost our male cat, Dickens, to cancer last August, and just adopted a 3-year-old female, Micau. Since our other female cat, Meisha is nearly 13, and my dog Mindy is 11, we are rediscovering how much fun it is to watch a young cat (she acts more like a kitten) play and explore her new world with eyes full of wonder and curiosity. All three of them bring so much joy and love into our lives every day!

    Gluten-free foods have, indeed, come a long way. When I was first diagnosed twenty years ago, the boxes tasted better than some of the products they contained! Now, my adult children have begun buying some of the products because they like the taste and texture.

    We have had several special needs animal companions over the years including a cat with severe asthma and one with chronic urinary tract disease; a Border Collie that went blind at age 2 and lived to be 12; Meisha, who had two homes before we adopted her, went through two life-threatening illnesses, and took two years of patience and love before she came out of her shell. Now, she's also going blind, but is Queen of the Castle and very confident. Mindy was shot in the foot when she was a puppy, and it was never properly treated, so it is crooked and arthritic, but she doesn't let it stop her. We adopted her 5 years ago when she was 6 years old, and I trained her to be my service dog. You can read a bit about her in the notes on my Facebook page, "Mindy the Weather Dog."