The Power of Detachment

Posted on June 7, 2017 by Robert Ringer


Detachment is an incredibly powerful tool that I wish I had understood much earlier in life. There are many things from which you can detach yourself, and one of the most important is the habit of judging people, actions, and circumstances as being right or wrong, good or bad.

When you are constantly classifying, labeling, and evaluating, you create a great deal of internal bickering. That, in turn, leaves less time and room in your mind for constructive thinking.

Worry, irrelevant and extraneous thoughts, and fears only add to this internal bickering. All these are abstracts from which you can make a conscious effort to detach yourself. Even more important is the necessity to detach yourself from needing the approval of others. When you are attached to peer approval, you tend to make bad decisions.

Then there’s the pain and discomfort of your present situation. The more you struggle against the unpleasant circumstances of the moment, the more time and energy you waste. It’s okay to want things to get better down the road, but it’s a mistake to waste time and energy wishing things were different than they are right now. It’s much more productive to learn to focus on the present and enjoy the moment.

Accepting your current situation means detaching yourself from the pain it is causing you. Philosophically, you should learn to accept pain as a normal aspect of life. Which means, paradoxically, that the best way to eliminate pain is to not try to eliminate it at all. The more you fight pain, the more likely it is to persist.

Above all, learn to detach yourself from specific results. Understand that circumstances constantly change and that things rarely work out precisely as planned. The results you end up with may be much different from the results you were after, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be less satisfying. If you are too attached to a specific result, it shuts down your creativity.

The ideal mind-set is: “I won’t die if things don’t work out as planned, so I’ll just step back and let the Universe sort things out.” As with peer approval, when you are too attached to a specific result, you have a tendency to force decisions, and forced decisions are almost always bad decisions.

As strange as it may sound, in order to attract success, you must let go of your attachment to it. You have to be careful not to become addicted to your desire; i.e., don’t think that you absolutely must have this or that specific thing or result.

This philosophy is very much in line with Viktor Frankl’s theory of “paradoxical intention,” which he wrote about in his book The Unheard Cry for Meaning. In laymen’s terms, paradoxical intention is the belief that the more we make something a target, the more likely we are to miss it.

This is tricky, but the quickest and most certain way to achieve a goal is to mentally focus on what you want and attach very strong feelings to wanting it. If you picture a result without attaching strong feelings to it, it’s no more than a thought. And that’s where the subtle connection between desire and letting go comes in.

Having strong feelings about wanting to attract something into your life is a good thing — the stronger your feelings, the better. But, at the same time, you have to “let go” and allow the Universe to deliver it to you.

If your objective becomes an obsession — if you believe that you can’t be happy without achieving it — your feelings pass the point of diminishing returns and your focus becomes counterproductive. It’s sort of like what happens when you press too hard to close a deal. In other words, if you want something very badly, but you don’t have to have it in order to be happy, you’re much more likely to get it.

All this does not mean that you should permanently resign yourself to a bad situation. Nor does it mean you should give up your desire for a specific result. What you should give up is your attachment to that result.

When you become adept at detachment — from pain, from evaluating and classifying everything that crosses your path, from precise results — it gives you the time, energy, and mental clarity to focus on the single most important activity for overcoming an impossibly bad situation: exploiting opportunities.

What opportunities? The opportunities that are part and parcel to every “impossible” situation. Based on personal experience, I am convinced that the greatest opportunities lie in the eye of the storm — at the very center of your worst problems.

Use your will to detach yourself from impossible situations and instead spend your time cultivating the opportunities they bring into your life. And always keep in mind that such opportunities may be heavily camouflaged.

Lastly, achieving sainthood is not the motivation for becoming detached. The only sound motivation for becoming detached is rational self-interest — the realization that if you keep your mind as clear as possible, you will have more time and clarity to concentrate on exploiting new and better opportunities.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.