When you’re in a seemingly impossible situation, one of the most important but least understood tools you can employ to turn things around is detachment.
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. As Deepak Chopra writes in The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, when you are constantly classifying, labeling, and evaluating, you “create a lot of turbulence in your internal dialogue.” The more internal bickering that takes place, the less time and room (in your mind) you have for constructive thinking.
Worry, irrelevant thoughts, and fears only add to this internal bickering. All of these are abstracts from which you should 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 is 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 don’t waste time and energy wishing things were different than they are right now.
Accepting your present situation means detaching yourself from the pain it is causing you. Philosophically, you should learn to accept pain as a normal part of life. Which means, paradoxically, that the best way to eliminate pain is to not try to eliminate it. The more you fight pain, the more it is likely to persist.
Above all, learn to detach yourself from specific results. Practice the art of being flexible. 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.
Your mind-set should be: “I won’t die if things don’t work out as planned, so I’ll just step back and let the Cosmic Ether work 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 often bad decisions.
All this doesn’t mean you should permanently resign yourself to the circumstances of your currently bad situation. Nor does it mean that you should give up your desire or intention for a specific result. What you should give up is your attachment to that result. Or, as Chopra puts it, you should “accept the present and intend the future.”
When you become adept at detachment — from pain, from evaluating and classifying everything that crosses your path, from precise results — it gives you 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 of 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 your impossible situation and, instead, spend your time cultivating the opportunities it has brought into your life — keeping in mind that such opportunities may be heavily camouflaged.
Thus, 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 opportunities.