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Psychological Detachment Fosters Success at Work and at Home


Detachment is one of those words that can have a dual meaning. One can be detached from reality, or, in the positive sense, freed from unnecessary burdens.


If you are like me, you have spent too many hours lying awake at night thinking about your day. Either running through your to-do list, rehashing conversations you wish I could change, or beating yourself up for not speaking up during a meeting. These thoughts are heavy, distracting, and unproductive. This is exactly the moment when we need to detach.


Psychological detachment is the ability to mentally disconnect from work and not think about work-related issues when you are away from your job. Detachment is not only healthy; it gives your mind a rest and keeps you in the present moment. It allows you the freedom to function at your highest level without being tied to specific thoughts or outcomes.


Visualize yourself at the movie theater or on your couch binge-watching a great series. You are completely engrossed in the story, connected to the characters, and interested in the ending. When the show or movie is over you get up and you go on with your life. You appreciate the entertainment, but you do not carry the characters’ stories, or injustices with you. Rarely (I hope), do you wake up in the middle of the night and think about the choices the character made or conversations they had. You are detached.

Detachment is especially useful in business as we find ourselves so determined to be right, closing the sale, or having our voice heard. I was presenting an opportunity to a potential client and naturally, I wanted them to accept our proposal, so I started to feel the pressure and heaviness of “we have to get this client.” Going into that meeting with that mindset was not helpful. At that moment I practiced detachment and here is how:


1. Awareness of attachment.

Listen to your thoughts, and if you hear thoughts like, “I have to make this sale” or “They have to change their process” or “If I make XXXX change, I am going to lose XXXX”, you are attached.


2. Visualize yourself detached.

Visualize yourself on the movie or TV screen watching the situation unfold. When the meeting or presentation is over, you go on with your life. Remember that your attachment to the specific outcome does not guarantee that outcome. Just because I really wanted the client to accept my proposal does not mean they will.


3. Be present and actively listen to the other person’s perspective.

When you are in a state of attachment you are intensively focused on yourself and your specific agenda. You cannot see alternate solutions or perspectives. The person sitting across from you will feel that. Take time to make a connection, ask incisive questions and actively listen to the answers.


This meeting was a success, and we did get a signed proposal. Practice detachment whenever you feel yourself carrying heavy thoughts of events that already happened or specific outcomes for situations that have not yet happened. Your mind will thank you; you will get more sleep and better results.

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