We get what we focus on

Posted by: Jo Banks

Date: 27-10-2016

We will undoubtedly experience what we choose to focus on, negative or positive...


In my post, ‘I’ll be happy when’ I talked about the fact that we get what we focus on, without fail. 


If we concentrate on the negatives about a person or a situation, then that's what we'll perceive to be true, often consciously or subconsciously blocking out or deliberately choosing to ignore the positives.  On the reverse, if we focus only on the positives then undoubtedly, that’s what we’ll experience.


Where we place our attention affects our wellbeing and our problem-solving ability, when we focus on the negatives and how unfortunate we are, it is harder to manage problems effectively, and often we revert to learned helplessness – mistakenly thinking that there’s nothing we can do. What we focus on, positive or negative, is a choice.  There are always at least two ways of looking at everything, and you don’t have to leave it to your old subconscious programming to decide.  Unless you consciously choose otherwise, your subconscious mind makes decisions based on old often outdated filters and learned behaviours programmed into you as a child. 


But it doesn’t have to be that way.  You can take control and actively decide on your response.  Successful people encounter the same problems as unsuccessful people, however, it's how they choose to view them and the decisions they make as a result, that turn a potentially negative situation into a positive. 


There’s a great example that illustrates this. 


A man who lived on a small island decided to take a short boat ride over to the mainland.  He said to the ferryman, “I’ve heard that the people on the mainland are very kind and helpful.  Is that true?” The boatman replied, “If that’s what you expect, then that’s what you’ll find”.  A second man also decided to leave the island and visit the mainland for the first time, “He said to the boatman, “I’ve heard that the people on the mainland are nasty, unfriendly and unhelpful.  Is that true?”  The boatman replied, “If that’s what you think, then that’s what you’ll find."



We have a need to be consistent with our view of ourselves and the world.  Therefore, if we think something/someone is bad/negative, etc., we will actively seek out all the negative references we can to back up it up, whether it’s true or not!  Similarly, if we are a positive thinker, we’ll look for positive references.


An excellent example of this is when I recently found out that someone was using my material and presenting it as their own.  While I was incredibly upset about it at first, when I calmed down and started to dig deep considering what could be positive about the situation, I came up with the following points:


  1. My work is that good that other people want to steal it!
  2. The person was (hopefully) making a positive difference to the people he was teaching it to


Now don’t get me wrong, it took quite a bit of soul searching to come up with those two things.  However, doing the exercise stopped my spiralling negative emotions that could quite easily have adversely affected me, negatively impacting everyone around me.  It doesn't mean that I didn't deal with the situation, of course I did, but it allowed me to keep things in perspective and manage the situation more effectively.


The next time you find yourself facing an adverse situation, ask yourself, "What is positive about this situation?” If you can’t think of anything, ask yourself, “If I really wanted to see something positive, what would it be?” Often rephrasing a question will help you come up with an answer.


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