The news is filled with folks complaining. From politics to economics and everything in between, people are focused on what we don’t have rather than what we do.
It’s such a deeply-rooted problem that it makes me wonder if our focus is the primary culprit for all the unhappiness we perceive.
When we imagine ourselves as lacking, we tend to see more of that toxicity, not less.
- I can’t start my own business.
- I’ll always be overweight.
- I won’t ever have enough money.
- I can’t be happy because I’m. …
I call these beliefs ‘negative affirmations.’ Some people make fun of affirmations and say they don’t work. I accepted that wisdom until I’d been working with clients for a while and noticed that they all used affirmations very effectively. They just used lousy ones!
What would your life be like if you started focusing on what you wanted rather than what you didn’t? Would that help you see more opportunities instead of just the obstacles?
The human nervous system is goal-oriented, organizing around thoughts we focus on. A thought is a signal to your nervous system saying, “I would like more of this, please.”
While there’s a place for analyzing problems (so you can learn how to avoid them in future, for instance), there’s typically greater value in dwelling on how you’d like things to be.
I once said to a business group “What do you want?” and asked them to identify some key areas. I was stunned to hear them listing all the problems with the current situation. I stopped them and said: “I understand these are real problems, but I’d like you to think about how you’d like it to be.” They responded with a “Yes, but …” then started listing the problems again. I had to interrupt three times and ended up telling them they couldn’t talk about any problems until they’d identified what they wanted.
This is what’s known as getting stuck in a loop. If that has happened to you, consider this:
• Identify a problem you’d like to solve. Then ask yourself: “What do I want?”
Make sure the answer is stated in the positive (e.g. “I want to be constantly in credit” rather than “I want to stop being in debt”).
• Ask yourself: “How will I know I’ve got it? What will I see, feel and hear?”
This is powerful because it gets you to identify your sensory-based evidence of success – a more realistic representation.
Perhaps you’ve heard the adage that your unconscious mind can’t tell the difference between a real experience and a vividly imagined one. I’m not sure this is absolutely true – I think the unconscious is a bit craftier than that – but I do know that when you vividly imagine yourself getting what you want, you more fully activate the neurons that start bringing it to fruition.
• Ask yourself: “If I woke up tomorrow and this problem had been miraculously solved, how would I know?”
This is a great way of finding out the answer to “What do I want?”
Even if you don’t have any problems that warrant solving at this moment, this question is fun to play with. A variation might sound like this:
• Ask yourself: “If I woke up tomorrow and every aspect of my life was perfect, how would I know?”
If you already perceive your life to be perfect, congratulations! You’re clearly a master of using your internal beliefs to your advantage.
If not, remember that whatever you focus on most is what you get the most of. Choose wisely!
Troy Media columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.