Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Not-Caring Trick

Zestful Blog Post #192

Not caring. That’s the paradox of quality achievement: Let your arrow fly with as much preparation and sincerity as possible—but don’t care where it goes! For then and only then will the shot, or the work, be worthwhile. Then and only then will it—can it—fly true and find its target.

Not everybody gets this, not everybody is open to this, no matter what. I remember talking golf with a friend a few years ago. My friend and I were mediocre golfers. I’d been experimenting with the ‘don’t care where it goes’ mindset after hearing the great champion Annika Sorenstam explain that the only way she can swing freely and produce beautiful shots is to not care where the ball goes. Also, I’d been reading similar ideas in books like Eugen Herrigel’s Zen in the Art of Archery. I got the gist immediately; the paradox appealed to my seeker’s heart. I saw how it can work. Take a hall-of-fame athlete like Annika: Well, her ball went exactly where she aimed it thousands of times, not in spite of her not-caring, but because of it.

I started to share this idea with my friend over a beer after a round. But she stiffened and interrupted, “I can’t do that. I DO care where my ball goes.”

I tried to explain, but in her view, not caring where your ball goes must absolutely, necessarily result in poor shots and awful scores. To her, not caring about the flight of her ball meant not trying hard during the swing; it meant slapping indiscriminately at the ball. Not caring, to my friend, meant being lazy. It meant not caring about the process. And that’s where she got it wrong.

‘Trying’ has ruined many an effort, whether golf shot, pirouette, or writing session. Trying usually means tightening, or attempting to force something. Furthermore, there is an element of fear in caring about results. Gosh, I hope I don’t hit it into the water. Gosh, I hope this piece of writing doesn’t turn out stupid.

But my friend would not or could not separate process from result. I finally gave up, telling her bluntly, “Then you’re doomed.” She shrugged off my nonsense. She doesn’t golf much anymore.

If you take pleasure in the swing, in the process, if you abandon yourself to the process, if you simply practice being aware without trying to change or even get better, if you go deeply into the process alone, be as present as possible, feel all the pleasure and joy of it—that’s when beautiful, satisfying results will come.

Go forth and attend to your process. Swing it. May the Force be with you.

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  1. Hi Elizabeth! Great post. I GET it!! I really do. Now, the trick ... incorporating it into my mind and life. :) TI'm certain this approach will help to grow my writing in a simpler, more stress-free way. Being so concerned about the end result totally hampers my journey of ever getting to the end. I'm always trying to firm things up as I work thinking about it not being "right" before I can move forward. Wrong! I need to not care, get the words down, and WRITE. I need to learn to write for me, and not for an audience. I won't care because all I have to satisfy is myself. Only then will I find the peace, joy, and love for this wonderful craft of being a writer.

    Love the post. :)


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