Get your motor runnin’, Day 2: Most Beneficent Outcome


Someday, I will have to write an entire essay about my first-shrink-(slash)-astrologer.

I’ve written about her in passing, usually when I need to back something up with particularly good wisdom in a particularly pithy way. My first-shrink-(slash)-astrologer, let’s call her “Zifka,” which is the name I gave her in the Young Adult novel I was supposed to write and, for various reasons, blew off, was full of both wisdom and pith. Which meant, from a practical application standpoint, that she was both able to point out why and how my head was stuck up my ass, and make excellent suggestions for the extraction of it, when (or if) I was sufficiently fed up with my condition to actually do something about it.

Which is to say, she called me on my shit in the best of all possible ways.

Anyway, Zifka and I hooked up again on my big trip to the PacNW this past fall. We’d spoken on the phone, here and there, over the years: sometimes as a “tune-up”, for which I happily paid her; sometimes just to shoot the breeze. A lot of breeze accumulates when you really vibe with someone but only get the chance to do it directly every five years or so, and we did us a lot of breeze-shootin’ (and fois-gras profiteroles eatin’, as she’s such a foodie, I’ll even eat lamb hearts and other “dare food” when I’m with her). And it’s cool, I don’t want to be a pig, sniffing around for truffly bits of worldly wisdom when she’s not on the clock. Although, you know, I hoped for them, all the same.

So she talked about being a mom, about living in the PacNW, about being an aging dyke mom to a black kid in the PacNW. We talked about heirloom beans, or somesuch, fifty bucks a pound!! (I told you: foodie.) We talked about wine and Chicago (where we’re both from) and California (where she used to live, and I still do) and how it sucks that thinning hair dictates cut as you get old. We talked a lot about the then-upcoming elections.

And finally, we talked about my trip to the PacNW and what I was trying to accomplish with it. Which I had problems articulating to the rank and file, but which I knew had little to do with my bullshit cover (writing second draft of submission chapters for aforementioned Young Adult novel) and everything to do with (god help me, I’m a walking Somerset Maugham cliché, 64 years later) finding myself. Ugh.

I knew it was borderline shrink territory, but hey, she’s Zifka, Zifka will tell you to GFY in a South Side minute, and make you laugh as you move on to the next subject. But she didn’t: she brought up the concept of Most Beneficent Outcome, or MBO, for short. And it’s so important a concept, I’m giving it its own header*, so future legions of Internet searchers can benefit from Zifka’s wisdom, too, even if Oprah insists on inviting that well-meaning yawner of a self-help dude, Eckhart TOO-lah**.

The “Most Beneficent Outcome” Concept, by Zifka

Instead of focusing on getting a particular thing, put out to the universe that you would like the most beneficent outcome. Point being, the universe is infinitely wiser and more complex than you, and you’re probably asking for something in PARTICULAR because you can’t imagine a fraction of the infinite possible outcomes.

Taking my Seattle trip as an example, I told a lot of people I was going there to write the book, because it was easier than saying I was going to see what would happen.

But the truth was I knew I was a stuck and needed some help processing info and figuring out how to get to the next level. I hadn’t a clue about what I was actually “processing” or what the next level looked like; I didn’t come up there thinking “I need to meet a lot of interesting people, dammit!” Or, “Seattle! That’ll be just the thing for kickstarting a series of workshops teaching people about how to market themselves and finally putting to good use all those wasted years writing ads and fucking around on Twitter!”

Instead, I did Most Beneficent Outcome (not calling it that) and lo, I got these chances to speak, met a slew of interesting new people, and came away with an Actual Clue as to what the hell I was supposed to be doing with the next few years of my life.

It’s really easy to get attached to outcome. Trust me, it’s how I operated the first 41 years of my life. I functioned at a pretty high level, considering, but who knows what I might have achieved had worked my ass of AND held an intention, rather than thinking I was making a downpayment on a very particular outcome.

As you move forward with your goals, you may want to think about the brilliant Zifka and the brilliant Most Beneficent Outcome.

Is it scary? Hells, yeah! At first. And always. But really, what worthwhile new thing isn’t?

Speaking of new things, if there’s a concept floating around out there that’s the same thing as MBO, only called something different, could you please bring it to my attention, preferably in the comments? I like knowing the long and noble history of ideas.

Even if they originate with Eckhart TOO-lah…


Image by _neona_ via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

*Adam Kayce! Monk at Work! This is one of those things we need to fix on my blog, right? I should have an h-2  header for internal entry callouts, right? Or am I nuts?

**Okay, he’s a really smart, nice guy. Great ideas. But come on, I can’t be the only one who drifts off like Ralph Kramden watching the Late Late Late Show when the guy starts talking.


  1. In Unity, MBO is also referred to as the little tag-on phrase, “This or something better.”

    I find it helpful to ask Spirit -or whatever it is that is wiser and infinitely more resourceful than we are- to clear the path to whatever outcome is in the highest and best good for me and everyone else involved, and mark any alternate paths very clearly with “Do Not Enter” and “Wrong Way” signs.

    And then there is the releasing part that is darned-near impossible for all of us of the Type A persuasion. The releasing part has to happen or else we’re just trying to manipulate the situation to fit our own tiny agendas.

    At least that’s one way to think about it.

  2. “These things, or something better, now manifest for me in totally satisfying and harmonious ways, for the highest good of all concerned.” S Gawain, Creative Visualization

    I take the concept as the “universe” curve fitting what you have thrown out to it as a request so it fits, works. It may not be exactly what you initially thought of but it is something you can work with as long as you have what it takes to recognize the response as it comes through. Recognizing what you have been given can be very challenging. Within that challenge lies the fruits/payoff I believe.

  3. Didn’t know it was a Unity principle, but my mother turned me onto “this or something better” probably 30-35 years ago…not that I ever remember to actually include it in an affirmation… As for outcome, I first really got the concept of ‘letting go of the outcome’ in 12 step rooms when I got sober almost 19 years ago (tho “Most Beneficient Outcome” sounds way cooler.) It was an easy concept for me to grasp, because I’m someone who runs like the dickens at the first hint of goal-making…outcomes are not something I innately focus on. That said, focusing on letting go of the outcome has helped me enormously in letting go of expectations (of others) and of perfectionism (within myself). It’s been a good mantra to remind me to get the f*ck out of my own way…which usually means to stop THINKING (trying to control)…and start letting things unfold as they’re meant to…

  4. Alexis – I LOVE the idea of asking for clearly marked “Stay the hell out!” signs. That’s gotta help with the letting go a little…right?

    WDF – I’d forgotten about ol’ Shakti! That’s a good one. Thank you!

    Marilyn – Interesting. I suffer from both perfectionism and goal-orientation, so it’s a really loaded thing for me (which is, I’m sure, why Zifka brought it up and threw me a little bone of validation.) I’m keeping a lot of things in my head right now (not good, as any goal-achieving type will tell you), and the stuff is flying SO fast and furious, I kinda have to let go of perfectionism (see following post), but once things are a little calmed down, I’m going to think of some “MBO” trigger. Triggers, as I’m learning from Leo Babauta’s challenge, can be a beautiful thing.

  5. This is reminding me of something I read in a beautiful book called “The Wishing Year” (by Noelle Oxenhandler). She talks about how she’s always been superstitious about praying/asking/wishing for specific, non-abstract things (like a boyfriend or a house). In part because she had absorbed the idea that it’s okay to ask for sacred things (like peace on earth), but not ordinary profane things. But also because of the knowledge that human beings see “through a glass darkly,” so that we can never predict the consequences of getting what we want, or the possibly greater wonderfulness of getting something other than what we’re actually asking for.

    All this to say, the “most beneficient outcome” clause sounds like it covers all possibilities handily. I’m going to start adding it in fine print to all my Big Requests.

  6. i just needed to say that you’re not the only one. about Eckhart, that is. i’ve tried and tried to read his writing (he writes a short column in a health magazine i pick up every now and again) and can never, ever finish it or get anything out of it. he seems nice though.

  7. Interesting–your PacNW venture was like a mini-version of the seven months I just spent in Paris (and traveling in other parts of Europe). I can see now that what I was doing was seeing what would happen, even though I had a vague goal that I would tell people about if they needed to know more. I did release myself of the obligation of pursuing that goal (writing a novel!) if I didn’t feel inspired. I didn’t feel inspired but it was still a great trip that I don’t regret in the least. It has added clarity to being home.

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