How to Stop Fixating When You Really Want Something

Years ago, when I was starting out as a coach, I realized I had to learn how to sell (they didn’t teach us that in business school). So I decided to sell health insurance. Yes, I chose #7 on the top-10 list of Gallup’s “least trusted” professions. 

Every week, I’d make dozens of cold calls and walk in and out of local stores to set up appointments with small business owners and freelancers across the five boroughs of New York (hello, Staten Island!). It was 100% commission-based, so if I didn’t make sales, I didn’t make money.

I had two choices: one, become a nervous wreck, anxious every week whether I was going to make any sales. Or two, focus on what I could control — learning something new, meeting interesting people or improving my selling technique.That’s when I adopted the mantra: “Committed but not attached.” 

I decided I had to train myself to be 100% prepared, engaged and excited — “not attached” doesn’t mean “detached” — without ANY expectation for the outcome. It definitely wasn’t easy but when I saw that the less attached and needy I was, the better my results, it was motivating.

Once, I trekked out to a pizza shop in Queens on a bitter cold Sunday in January to meet with one of the employees. Starting to fill out the insurance forms, he stopped at the blank asking for his social security number, and said, “Wait, I don’t want to give you all my personal info.”

Though my heart stopped, I said, “Well, if you don’t trust me, we probably shouldn’t be doing business.” He looked at me and said, “Yeah, you’re right,” and went back to filling out the form. Phew. If I had been attached to the outcome, I would have tried instead to convince him why he should trust me — “Are you serious?! I friggin’ took three subways to come out here and help you! — and it would have turned out very differently.

  • Making your 27th pitch presentation to VCs after 26 crushing no’s? “Committed but not attached.”
  • Negotiating a six-figure client contract? “Committed but not attached.”
  • Third round of interviews with your dream company? “Committed but not attached.”

Use it in pretty much any situation where you want things to go a certain way but have no control to make it happen.

p.s. And when things don’t work out the way you wanted, the corollary is: Accept it as if you had chosen it. Boom!


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