When Gretchen Rubin, the author of the New York Times bestselling books The Happiness Project and Happier at Home and host of the award-winning podcast Happier, was asked in a recent interview how she maintains her inner calm with something so exhausting and unpredictable like a book launch, she replied, “I think about actions, not outcomes. That way, I stay focused on the things I can control (more or less). So I don’t think about ‘making the book a success,’ but ‘writing the best book I possibly can.’ “
This mindset aligns beautifully with the notion of Karma Yoga, wherein the goal is to detach our ego from the results and just focus on doing actions. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna instructs Arjun, “Desire for the fruits of your work must never be your motive in working… Renounce attachment to the fruits.” He further adds, “Work done with anxiety about the results is far inferior to work done without such anxiety in the calm of self-surrender… They who work selfishly for results are miserable.”
When we operate with results in our mind, we operate in a selfish manner and look at success as a ‘prize’. We distance ourselves from our humanness and goodness. In addition, we get stuck in the negative loop of ‘comparison and competition’ that deteriorates us and our well-being. As a result, we constantly feel anxious and overwhelmed as we pursue our desired outcomes and put unnecessary pressure on ourselves to perform.
When we focus on our actions, it becomes less about winning or losing. Instead, it becomes more about gaining mastery and getting better day by day. We become more experience-focused, instead of being driven by rewards. As we let go of distractions and disturbances and the tension whether we are going to get our desired result or not, we focus on conquering ourselves and doing our best bit for the day.
The truth is that results are never in our control, what we can control are our actions and our attitude. A great reminder to keep us grounded in our daily life is this quote by T.S. Eliot: “For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.” When we don’t have the challenge of getting results dangling above us, we bring the locus of control in ourselves. We simply focus on doing right, aligned actions and living an intentional and meaningful life. Things may or may not turn out the way we wanted them to be, but we are happy that we gave our very best and dedicated ourselves to the process.
When we simply focus on doing the best we possibly can in all the things that we do, we experience an unparalleled clarity and tranquility. And this is what inspires us to keep moving forward, regardless of the fact that the outcomes are in our favor or not.