Work done with anxiety about results is far inferior to work done without such anxiety…

I recently reread Franny and Zooey, J.D.Salinger’s novel that paradoxically explores the meaning of faith and self-realization in the context of a very unusual NY family in the 1950s. In one pivotal scene, Zooey enters the room of his older brothers Buddy and Seymour for the first time in the seven years since Seymour shot himself (the moment is poignantly covered in A Perfect Day For Bananafish, perhaps Salinger’s most famous short story). He pauses for a moment to read some quotes the brothers had on their door, starting with this one from the Bhagavad Gita (an indication that this is a pretty unusual family!):

“You have the right to work, but for work’s sake only. You have no rights to the fruits of work. Desire for the fruits of work must never be your motive in working. Never give way to laziness, either.

Perform every action with your heart fixed on the Supreme Lord. Renounce attachment to the fruits. Be even-tempered [underlined by one of the calligraphers] in success and failure; for it is this evenness of temper which is meant by yoga.

Work done with anxiety about results is far inferior to work done without such anxiety, in the calm of self-surrender. Seek refuge in the knowledge of Brahman. They who work selfishly for results are miserable.”

Regardless of your beliefs, this message is especially important when making changes. The desired end is not the important part, the actual experience of change is where life resides. Besides, in nearly every case I’ve encountered, the results were seldom what was expected in the beginning- and usually much more impactful.

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