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Attach to Inputs, not Results – Nerdful Mind #83

August 15, 2021 by Simon Mannes

What do you control?

And what is out of your control?

If two major ancient belief systems, Buddhism and Stoicism, contain this piece of advice, there must be something to it, right?

In Buddhism we have Shantideva who said:

“If you can solve the problem, then what is the need of worrying? If you cannot solve it, then what is the use of worrying?” — Shantideva

Then there's the Stoic value “focus on what you control”:

“What is it then to be properly educated? It is learning to apply our natural preconceptions to the right things according to Nature, and beyond that to separate the things that lie within our power from those that don’t.” – Epictetus

The question of what is in my control is a big part of a happy life for me. If I can control it, worrying doesn't help. And if I can't control it, worrying has no use.

Even when we're ambitious, with goals and plans and all that, focusing on what we control helps us to not waste energy on things we can't change. In this setting, it's called Nonattachment to Results.

You can do your best in everything you control and still fail. If you're self-compassionate and focus on what you put in and not the results, you can learn and try again.

Striving is fine, as long as it's tempered by the realization that, in an entropic universe, the final outcome is out of your control. If you don't waste your energy on variables you cannot influence, you can focus much more effectively on those you can. When you are wisely ambitious, you do everything you can to succeed, but you are not attached to the outcome - so that if you fail, you will be maximally resilient, able to get up, dust yourself off, and get back in the fray. That, to use a loaded term, is enlightened self-interest.” - 10% Happier [emphasis mine]

Reading Recommendations

The Easiest Way to Explain Stoicism: The Stoic Happiness Triangle

“Stoicism teaches that we’re very much responsible for our own happiness and unhappiness. It’s not what happens to us that matters, but how we respond. We can refuse to let the hands we’re dealt decide over our wellbeing.”

ABC of emotions

“All of psychology can be summed up as a combination of Affect, Behaviour and Cognition. Emotions are affect proper, but being in an affective or emotional state also carries along with it certain changes in behaviour and cognitions. For eg, an angry person not only feels angry but also behaves in an aggressive manner and his whole perception of other conspecifics is coloured by his being in a state of anger.”

Don’t become an Enterprise/IT Architect…

“With increasing IT volumes in the world, landscape change is getting harder and harder, and we need to adapt to that fact. Upper management is very slow to adapt and the Enterprise/IT Architect/Strategist's position becomes more frustrating as a result.”

Weekly Mindfulness Practice

Do you have a chore you're usually doing while your attention is somewhere else? E.g. you're listening to music or an audiobook while doing the dishes.

Try doing it with your utter and undivided attention. Just for 5 minutes. Without distractions. Stay with whatever you're doing.

Afterwards, check how that made you feel.

End Note

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Have a great week


PS: What do you think about this? Please hit reply and let me know. I'm curious!