163. Ignore outcomes to get Outcomes

Rama Nimmagadda
5 min readMay 10, 2024
Photo taken by Prateek Kumar Rohatgi in 2024 near Bhigwan Lake, India

“You don’t get results by focusing on results. You get results by focusing on the actions that produce results.” — Mike Hawkins

I was trying hard to get a yoga asana right. My right hamstring was strung out already. It refused to budge. I was not able to stretch it by even a millimeter. I was trying hard, no doubt. It was quite painful — it felt like my hamstring was going to tear any moment then. Somehow, at that moment, I finally paid attention to the words of my Yoga teacher — “Keep breathing. Don’t worry about doing it perfectly. See if you can stretch a just a wee bit further.” As I started to follow her instructions, finally my hamstring relented a crucial few millimeters. I did the best hamstring stretch of my life. Once I stopped focusing on the result, the result materialized itself.

This is not an isolated experience. This happened for many other asanas. Also, this happened outside Yoga too.

When you engage a running coach, one of the first few pieces of information you get asked typically is the target time you want to complete your marathon in. Your coaching engagement may start with a certain target for a PB (Personal Best) performance. If the target is not too far from your comfort zone, you may not engage with the goal meaningfully. Whereas if the goal is too ambitious, even in case you fall short of your goal, you may still achieve your best performance. So, ambitious goals should serve you well. But is this really the case?

Most of the people that I know who set ambitious goals for themselves have actually given up on their pursuits altogether because the going was too tough and relentless to sustain. It is hard, very, very hard to do what it takes to achieve big goals. No wonder many can’t stand the trials and the tribulations along the way. But is there a way to significantly reduce the chances of giving up?

“Set a goal, write it down, and release the outcome. Small steps make a big difference.” — Cheryl Richardson

Use your goal to draw out the actions you need to take to achieve your goal. Once the method to achieve the goal is determined, stop fretting about the goal itself. In fact, ignore the goal altogether. Just obsess over the actions you need to execute to achieve your goal. Unburden yourself off the expectations of having to achieve your goals. When things don’t go to plan, which happens every once in a while because life happens, focus on what best you can do to get back on track. Recalibrate the goal if needed.

Try to enjoy the process — for it is extremely hard to keep at something for a long time if you do not like doing it. If you do not enjoy the process, even if you somehow keep up with the execution, you may not be giving it your all because deep down there may be some level of resistance — there will be no oneness with the goal. Keep reminding yourself of the purpose behind your actions and the goal itself. So long as the purpose is personally meaningful, it can provide you with daily motivation.

Probably the hardest thing to do is being patient with the process because once a goal is set, dopamine builds up until you achieve your goal. Your biggest kick is just as you are about to achieve the goal. So, you would rather get done with the goal and then do all the things that you need to do and patiently wait until things come to fruition. So again, it is best to obsess over your daily actions as opposed to the ultimate goal.

“The important thing is to believe in what you do. Have a big dream and take small steps.” — Diane von Furstenberg

When you focus on daily/weekly/short-term actions, feedback from your actions is relatively immediate and that allows you to keep improving. It also allows for the expectations (dopamine) to recycle as opposed to getting pent up. Apologies, this is all getting rather preachy. I guess I’m preaching to myself here. As a matter of fact, I’m in the process of replanning my family’s finances right now and in that effort, making a few heavily consequential decisions. The ensuing results will take a few years to play out and it requires that I maintain patience, enjoy the process and ensure that I occupy my spare time with meaningful activities. These served me rather well in the past and I do not want to get complacent.

Bottomline

“Inch by inch, life’s a cinch. Yard by yard, life’s hard.” — John Bytheway

Obsession with results exacts a heavy toll on us. I have no doubts that results matter but so much about results is out of our control. Even by doing all that we are meant to do, we cannot guarantee the results — we can at best increase the likelihood of the desired results, Relentless focus on the results may, in fact, come in the way of increasing their likelihood — because any setbacks along the way can compound into huge negative drag on your motivation, because it is hard to be resilient all the time and because it is hard to endure focus and persistence until the final results. As opposed to this, focusing on doing the required daily activities well, may create a positive momentum and may also, perhaps, help purge your dopamine cycles frequently, thereby reducing unnecessary build-up of anxiety and/or expectations. Better yet, by focusing on the right methods, you may actually end up going further than your original goals.

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Thanks for taking time to read this article. In this newsletter, I share my learnings that could help you improve your decisions and make meaningful progress on your goals. I try to share stuff that I have personally experienced or experimented with. If you find this newsletter worthwhile and if you do not mind it, please do consider sharing it with others.

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