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]