Outcome Attachment Kills Performance: Relax Instead

Want to know a fantastic way to sabotage your performance? Be dependent on success. Attach everything to the success of your performance. Say, “If I don’t come through here, I’m a failure. I suck. I’m not good at what I do.” If you do that, watch yourself tense up. Watch your performance go downhill. Watch yourself get even more tense as you try to save yourself from failure. More often than not, your tension will end up being your downfall. At the end of your performance, you’ll look at yourself and think, “Well, I lost. I failed. Now I’m not good at anything, and I’m just a failure,” and so on, until you end up shredding your self-concept into a million pieces and think of yourself as the most incompetent human being to ever walk the earth. Attachment to the outcome – staking your self-esteem on your performance – did you in.

Unhealthy Attachment

When we attach ourselves to the outcome and stake our self-worth to our performance during a certain event, we tense up because of the burden of our own expectations. We can’t relax because we think that, in order to still have some self-esteem after this event, we need to perform at our best. The prospect of living a life without any self-esteem or sense of self-worth (at least temporarily) makes our minds feel under pressure – because they are. Think about it this way: what if the person you loved the most told you that, unless you came got a very lucrative, prestigious job that you applied to, they wouldn’t loved you anymore? Their love would be tied to your performance in securing a job. How ridiculous does that sound? Isn’t it inane to think that anyone could tie their love to something as arbitrary as getting a high-level job? Want to know what you call those kinds of relationships? Unhealthy. (Readers, if the person you love the most would stop loving you over something similar, I’d reevaluate your relationship with that person and ask yourself whether you actually love them or even if you want them in your life) Well, every single time you get attached to the outcome, you’re doing exactly that to yourself. You’re saying, “Okay, self, if you don’t get an A on this paper, I won’t love you anymore, and I certainly won’t treat you with respect. If you screw this up, I’ll never trust you again to do anything. I won’t want anything to do with you, but I guess I’ll endure the pain of being stuck with you forever because you’re all I’ve got. But I won’t like it.” Which puts a ton of psychological pressure on your mind. You are, with this paper (in my example) fighting for your own self-esteem. While that’s a tremendous motivator – that’s why we attach ourselves to the outcome in the first place; we think high risk = high reward – it’s also very unhealthy.

Relaxation, Not Tension, Leads to Better Performance

The lesson to be learned here is that relaxation, not tension, creates better performance. Making your body tense up by being attached to the outcome is a good way in the short term to improve energy levels, but, in the end, the stress ends up compromising your ability to perform. By relaxing, on the other hand, and not caring much about the outcome, you can let yourself perform to the best of your ability. Your movements become effortless instead of being tense. Your relaxation response kicks in, leading to better decision-making. If you stay in the moment, breathe deeply, and care little about the outcome, you’ll end up triggering your relaxation response (google it to learn more). The relaxation response nullifies most of the harmful effects of tension, like fatigue, irritability, muscle soreness, and lack of focus. In order to trigger the relaxation response in the moment, you need to do exactly that: relax. Breathe deeply. Let go of the tension that you feel in your body. Feel free of the burden of expectations, instead of trying to stake your self-worth on them. By doing that, you’ll actually perform at your best, instead of sabotaging yourself.

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