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When I first began exploring the topic of detachment many years ago, it created significant tension in my mind. I didn't understand how we can detach from things when we're trying to lead an intentional life. They seemed at odds with each other. After all, doesn't intention include a natural attachment to the outcome we're working toward?

The stoics preached detachment. Buddha preached detachment. Jesus preached detachment. The list goes on. Detachment seems to have been woven in one way or another into every major philosophy and religion of history.

Thankfully I didn't just write the topic off because I didn't understand it. If the greatest teachers throughout history believed detachment was a path to inner peace, who was I to argue otherwise?

And then at some point, it clicked.

When you live in the world of "goals", detachment becomes nearly impossible. To take the laziest example possible, many people set weight loss goals at the beginning of the year. You either hit them or you don't. You're attached to the outcome - that's the implicit nature of a goal.

But goals don't work. At least, not in perpetuity. That person may hit their weight loss goal, but then what? Keep pushing the goal down the line, so we feel a persistent state of inadequacy? I'll pass.

Detachment clicked for me when I started moving from goals to systems. Systems enable us to move in the direction of our ultimate selves, without attaching to some arbitrary outcome.

Do I want to be 20 pounds lighter, or do I want to be someone that leads a healthy lifestyle?

The former is a goal, the latter can be a system. Daily walks. Fasting. Eating whole foods. These are things that can be turned into a system - a system that continually moves us towards our best selves.

We change when our identities change. And our identities change when we show up every day to do the work of that person leading a healthy lifestyle. My identity isn't attached to being 185 pounds or lifting some irrelevant amount of weight. My identity is attached to being someone that makes conscious health choices on a daily basis. My identity is attached to focusing on the things in my control, not the things outside of it.

And that is the crux of the issue.

Detachment only becomes practical when we shift from goals to systems. I don't have to look at a number on a scale. Or a number on a spreadsheet. Or a number on a subscriber list. I just have to commit to the daily work.

Commit to the system, and detach from the outcome. The outcome will take care of itself.

-Adam Griffin
Forward High Performance Coaching
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