Several years ago I picked up a used copy of the Autobiography of Mohandas Gandhi. An inspirational character, whose insights lead me to pick up another book - the Hindu text called the Bhagavad Gita.
For those not familiar with the Gita, put simply, it is an old Sanskrit text which records a conversation between two central characters, Arjuna and Krishna, about the attainment of Moksha - liberation. It is more than that, but I think that will work as a summary. If you want a more in depth summary, read this
I’m not a Hindu nor am I terribly religious these days, but I like to take inspiration where I find it. It was in this book that I encountered the idea of ‘non-attachment’ especially when it came to the result of action. This is like the old saying, “it’s not the destination, but the journey.” What I got from it, basically, was that we should train ourselves to enjoy the action itself, regardless of the result. It doesn’t have to be a positive or a pleasant action.
Pleasant actions are, well, pleasant… but if we can train ourselves to enjoy a negative experience, therein lies real freedom. The ability to operate in the world with a detached objectivity. Not passive, but detached from the need to control the result of action.
“Let your concern be with the action alone, and never with the fruits of action. Do not let the results of your action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction” - Krishna, from the Gita
I had a personal experience with this concept later on.
One morning I got up early to go to the farmer’s market. The morning light was glowing and everything was bright and green and beautiful. It was held at an old property in Barbados, called Brighton Plantation. I took my film camera with me, I’d put some film in it recently that still had unexposed frames in it.
I took some really nice shots of the people, fresh wet vegetables and other produce, and really had a good time. Knowing that I’d reached 24 frames, I stopped, wound up the film carefully, and opened the camera. There was no film.
I laughed, and laughed. In the parking lot I stood there holding my empty camera with a huge grin on my face, remembering all the great shots I’d just taken. It’s probably better this way, seeing the actual shots might not have been so great!! But it became personal to me in that moment. I enjoyed the action so much, and I was not attached to the result. So there was no film in the camera - big deal. Life goes on. It was funny!
Now, I’m not saying that it’s going to be hilarious when you’ve got that big client expecting shots the next day and then you realize that the card malfunctioned and you have zero shots from the photo shoot. What a hoot that would be, right? I wouldn’t think so.
Yet, I need a reminder to be less attached to results, to be more action oriented.
How often do I find myself worrying about the results of my actions, and what does worrying get me?
It’s like this post. Will it be successful, or will it be a flop? Either way, it will be okay. I hope for a good turn out, but I cannot control it. All I can do is focus on my action, and then leave it.
I’m using it as a reminder to myself, because it’s hard to be unattached to the result of action when money is involved. Money is so… real. It’s such a thing. We see the dollar signs on all the posts, ours and everyone elses. It’s what makes the world go ‘round.
I want my effort to be rewarded with money, but I have to remind myself that it’s just money. Useful, yes, but it’s not everything.
If we can train ourselves to be at least less attached to the result of action, then the payout maybe will be less devastating if it isn’t what we’d hoped for!