Cherishing the Outcome

Riding the RocketThis is a thing my yoga teacher talks about fairly frequently. How we get invested in a “cherished outcome”–a thing we want to happen, a goal we want to reach, a dream we want to fulfill.

All of which are good things for the most part, and we should have goals and dreams because that’s how we progress. The problems start when we get so fixed on a particular outcome, and so bound and determined to Make It Happen, that we lose sight of whether it’s really the right thing.

This applies to everything from writing to cooking to training animals to getting through life in general. We want things, and we want to make them happen, and we do everything we can to push in that direction, even after it’s become apparent that it’s not a good or right or reasonable direction. That character will do X in that scene, regardless of whether X is actually what that character as portrayed in the rest of the story would do, because that’s what the plot needs and that’s That. My puppy will do Y right now whether he’s ready or not, and whether it makes sense to him or not, and when he quite reasonably doesn’t, not only am I flummoxed, I may find myself blaming him for what I did wrong.

This applies to bigger things, too. With horses, I’ve had a dream for years and years, of training a horse to Grand Prix dressage. I had a trainer who supported me and found me a horse he thought might do it–and then the trainer was gone and I was 2500 miles away and life piled up in this way and that way, and the horse had injuries, and things didn’t happen. So I tried again with another horse, and the same thing happened. Bad luck, poor decisions, wrong choices of trainers–I clung to that cherished outcome, but it Just Wouldn’t Happen.

I’m stubborn. I’m also a bit OCD. It takes me a long time to stop beating against a wall and start thinking past “I Want This And I Will Get This No Matter What.”

Now let me say again, this isn’t about perseverance, or about overcoming obstacles in order to finally find success. I’m talking about clinging to ideas or plot points or life choices or for that matter horse trainers long after it should be clear that those aren’t the right ones for the story or the animal or me. I’m also talking about looking past that cherished outcome to what’s really here, and what’s really happening, and who (or what) I really am. Or my animal is. Or my story is.

That’s when the story turns out to be about someone other than the person I thought was the protagonist, and the animal wants to do something else besides what I thought he wanted (or I wanted), and I finally get a smack from the clue bat and realize what I’m actually doing here.

It’s hard to let go. To stop judging myself, or my animal, or my book, by the standards of the original outcome, and to see it in its new context. To rewrite the story from the viewpoint it really needs. To train the animal the way that works best for that animal. To stop thinking of myself as “future high-level dressage rider” and see what I am, which is proprietor of Camp Lipizzan, aka Rescue Central, aka Difficult (but Happy) Horses R Us.

We went in being all about me–what I wanted. And somehow that turned into being all about the horses, what they want and what they feel is best for them.

Now here’s the thing. A yoga thing, a Zen thing. When we stop getting all wound up in Wanting Things, and relax and let go and remember to breathe, not only do we stop being unhappy about not getting what we wanted. Sometimes, we end up getting it after all (the way people who give up on having their own child will adopt–and suddenly they’re pregnant). And sometimes what we end up with makes us just as happy–if  not happier.

I’m working on it. It’s hard not to keep Wanting. I have to relax. And remember to breathe. Breathing is important. Not just for basic survival, but for general ability to function.

If I do that, and don’t get hung up on Wanting that, too, I can hope, or even expect, that what comes along will be a right thing. It will be interesting at least. And educational. It might even make me happy–because my story is happy, or my animal is happy. Then it’s about me after all, but not in any of the ways I expected.

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Cherishing the Outcome — 13 Comments

  1. I feel with you. I’m just composing blogpost on how I spent years and years honing the product (=words on the page) without tackling the process: now that I’ve stumbled across the process fix, the product has improved tenfold and it’s not even much of an effort. So this post resonates with me.

    Thank you for sharing.

    • Good, I’m glad. That’s one thing we’re here for: to be able to help people and animals when they need help.

      Which took me the longest time to figure out. But here we are.

  2. Ah yes, I drink at this well and honor these gods, even when I forget…

    Raising my glass of water to Camp Lipizzan…
    and all that was, is, and to come…

  3. When working along on an outline, and I know what’s happening next, but the story stops dead, I have a rule: make the opposite happen. If she’s walking into a market to learn something, have a dragon swoop in and drive everyone, including her, off.

    It can take me a long time to remember that rule.

  4. We say, “Progress not perfection.” My first yoga teacher talked about how yoga is directional — it doesn’t matter how far you can bend as long as you’re facing in the right direction. But how do we know what the “right” direction is? A specific goal that our crazed-monkey minds have devised and that we’re too stubborn to let go of? Or something more nebulous and infuriating like “the greater good”? Or like a compass searching for true north but content to be wherever it is at the moment?

    I suspect that’s one reason animals add so much to our lives — they keep us on the pivot point of the compass, finding joy (bones! romps! scritches! treats! in the moment.

  5. I was just telling a friend that I have realized I’ll never have the “dog of my dreams,” because I do not have the patience or time for the kind of training That Dog would require. But what I have is a pretty awesome (and obedient!) dog who is very happy and loves “playtime” (known to most of the world as “training”).

    And that’s good. Because I’m happier, she’s happier, and we work better together.