Don’t be Attached to the Outcome. Yeah, right.

Oh, what to do when you’ve done your very best and you don’t get what you want at all?

I talk about this with clients a lot. I use that formula: “Show up, pay attention, tell the truth, don’t be attached to the outcome” with regularity. I talk, glibly, I now fear, about taking the eagle view rather than the mouse view, about seeing the big picture, about how past disappointments have often led them to their very best moments in life.

Alas, I may be full of shit, down and dirty just plain wrong. Terrible thought for a life coach, because if that’s true, then everything I’ve been teaching and really believing since I started this journey is not only false, but dangerous.

What to do, what to do? What to do when it seems like this idea of not being attached to the outcome is as impossible as trying to bite your own teeth?

I’m a little depressed. You may have picked that up.

So what happened was: I did an industry showcase of this show I wrote. It seemed like a good idea at the time. The show had gone over so well whenever I’d performed it; no one could stop talking about how inspiring it was, about how it moved them. Many people told my husband and me how it would make a terrific tv or web show, that we’d be shoo-ins.

We’ve both been around this business a long time. We should have known better.

But we wanted so much to believe this. We love the show. So—we hired a publicist, costumer, lighting designer. We rented a spectacular venue. As we are always wont to do, we spent a boatload of money. (We both tend to have a little magical thinking about money. “It’ll be fine,” we tell ourselves as the bills pile up. “You can always make more money.” The problem is—sometimes this thinking actually works. This week, not so much. I’ll get to that in a minute.) 

Anyway, it was a great night. So many people showed up, they had to hold the curtain to bring in more chairs. People loved the show…it gave them courage, so many told me, to try their creative ventures again, it made them bold. So—it was successful, except that all the industry people who said they would come—didn’t. All those people I wrote and got in touch with who said they’d come—nope. Nada. Zip.

Yeah, and I’m sure you’re thinking: Well, so the hell what? I mean, this was the week of Sandy the Frankenstorm, for god’s sake. Many people have real problems. I know, I know! On the surface of it, this is such a small thing it makes me mortified to even mention it, much less write about it and not be able to get over it. And it’s not like “industry people” are more important than anyone else, not by a long shot.

It’s just that I had invested this particular night with so much. (And I do mean that literally as well as figuratively…)  I really thought that someone would come who could take this show to another level. I thought it would be worth the money we spent because I’d get an agent, a writing deal, an offer to do the show in a great venue, something. And I had done so much internal work to be ready for it. I’d gotten past feeling unworthy, feeling terrified, not being willing to show up. I’d rehearsed for months. I’d done hours of writing and tons of meditations about doing my very best, about not being attached to outcome.

But not enough work, apparently. ‘Cause man was I attached to a different outcome. Am. Am attached.

Because, of course, this was also the week that my husband’s job changed so much that our financial outlook is considerably grimmer (but not in a good way) than it was a couple of weeks ago. But thank goodness the tax bill came and it’s only 3 times what we’d expected.


Here’s a question I also ask my clients and myself with regularity: What are you making this mean?

Well, gosh, let’s see. Here’s a partial list, in no particular order, of what I’ve made these events of the past week mean:

1. Everything I say is false. Everything I do is doomed. 

2. This is what you get when you believe in yourself. You get Nothing. This is what you always get and have always gotten and will always get.

3. No one likes you.

4. See? Now you have to get a real job. Time to pay the piper. And it can’t have anything to do with acting/writing/performing, that ship has sailed and it’s sailed without your sorry ass.

5. And it can’t be anything to do with coaching either, since everything you’ve learned about coaching is sheer, unadulterated fiction.

6. The universe looked at how much you spent on this idiocy and said: “What are you, high? I’ve gotta teach you fools what money really means. I’ll show you by not letting you have what you’re used to. Good luck!”

7. I’m stupid. I want too much. And I’ll never get it.

8. I failed again and I always will fail. I never learn.

9. Everyone thinks you’re talented, but so what? You’ll never make any money with creativity as long as you live. You’re gonna go bankrupt because of your stupid show. Hubris! Hubris!

10. Oh, get over it already! Most people have real problems! This is so typical of your insanity!

11. Time to get a job at McDonald’s. Or no, Starbucks. At least they have benefits.

When I look at this list, a part of me—I suspect my soul—is highly entertained. She’s watching me go through these torturous thoughts and she’s looking at me with tolerant affection, the way I look at my daughter when she loses her mind in some epic tantrum, usually brought about because she’s stayed up til 1:00 in the morning at a slumber party and has eaten nothing but sugar for 12 straight hours. At such times, I give her a bath and read her a story and tuck her into bed with her blankie, even though she is nine years old. I know enough to understand that I need to do some version of this for myself at this time.

So—I guess some of the life-coachy stuff is still in here.

But the other part of me balks and is not that enlightened. And she can’t stop leaking tears bitter enough to sweeten horseradish. (What a tortured metaphor. I’m making that mean I’m not a good writer, because I can’t think of a better one. Wahhhh.) All she can do is hear and believe that roar of mean-spirited thoughts and make desperate plans about a terrifying future while choking to death on the oh-so-hard-to-swallow past.



She can also sit here, looking out the window at the slowly yellowing leaves on the Japanese elm. At the globes on the pomegranate tree that are so burnished and perfect, they look like Christmas ornaments. She can only go about the day, taking some raspberries and flowers to a friend who just began chemo; picking up her kids; writing sad blogs; handing out candy to the 200 or so trick-or-treaters who’ll descend tonight at dusk. What she can do is hold form and wait.  Eventually, the soul part knows, this death grip on “what should have been” will loosen. But not today.


(A different life coach might add: “And that’s okay.” But that would make a life coach like me punch her in the head.)










This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 31st, 2012 at 8:15 pm and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


4 Responses to “Don’t be Attached to the Outcome. Yeah, right.”

  1. Sheila Says:

    Sonja Alarr – you ARE a a STAR!!! Can I just tell you how much I love your writing and your funny stories told with such honesty that they makes me breathe ever so deeper?! You make me laugh so hard I cry. Go ahead and quit believing in yourself if you want to. But I am never, ever, ever going to stop believing in you!! Your success is hidden amongst those hilarious, depressed words you write and act out. Of this I am certain. I predict “what should have been” is nothing compared to “what’s coming,” money and all. So much love and gratitude for you, Sonja! XOXO

  2. Sonja Says:

    Thank you, Sheila! What would I do without your support? You bring tears to my eyes. Of course I feel better today and am embarrassed by how whiny this is. But–sometimes I think, as a life coach, that there is a whiny stage I need to pass through in order to move the hell on. Thank you for your vision of me.

  3. Debbie Louthan Says:

    I just adore you, Sonja Allar! Your honesty helps us all smile and feel better that we are not the only ones with these thoughts. You are fabulous!!! And I’m so grateful that you are on this planet with me. :-)

  4. Rose Says:

    When my alarm went off this morning, and I looked at my email, this is the first thing I read, through my squinty-sleep eyes. And I just wanted to say, F***! F*** it. I don’t know why this shit happens, but it does. And it sucks so bad. And yet, the fact that you’re here still, writing about it, letting us see it, is so liberating. No shame. Be seen. Even as you are in the mess, you’re still creating and sharing! Love you.

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