(Originally posted Dec 16, 2018)
Everywhere I turn recently in books, documentaries, courses, conversations with friends, inspirational quotes on Facebook, etc., I have been seeing a variation of this message repeated: focus on what you want, not what you don’t want. Seeing even the smallest kernel of goodness in something – will cause you to start seeing more and more of it.
I used to think that I was doing this – I thought I was a fairly positive person. I had adopted various coping strategies that involved looking for the positive in a situation – but upon reflection I realize I’d only really used them in response to big issues.
Little had I noticed the chronic undercurrent of negative in my approach to my daily life and thinking. Years, decades of practicing self-doubt on a subtle, but daily basis: comparing myself to others and feeling less-than, feeling inferior, self-doubt – basically honing my skills at being my own best critic, under the guise of being positive, e.g. saying that everything was OK, or just smiling a lot, etc. These practices had become so automatic and reflexive that the habit was quite entrenched.
In recent years, I’ve adopted some new approaches: not just focusing on the bright spot in a situation, but looking for what I’m learning from a situation (instead of feeling like a victim), focusing on my passion, and on others over myself, on seeing what I have (gratitude) instead of what I want or lack (scarcity), and paying attention to my intuition and doing what feels right. These practices helped me uncover a joy already in me that wasn’t there before. Once I felt it in my heart, in my being, in my vibration – what it was that I loved or accepted about something – a job, a task, a day, a person, an event, a situation – meant not leaving much room for negative aspects to drag me down.
Don’t get me wrong – I am not suddenly and miraculously 100% positive all the time. I still grumble about things every now and then. Sure, I catch myself slipping into old patterns sometimes, but I try to notice it, catch myself, and consciously try turning my thinking around. Awareness is the key to breaking any pattern or starting a new habit or way of thinking.
I still find it so important to be observant, and pay attention to issues – seek to change what I can about a situation (or my attitude toward it); in doing so, I may realize there is something negative there. Not all paths are smooth. Sometimes there are potholes along the way and you can’t ignore them entirely. But the key is to not stay focused on the pothole. Like driving or cycling: look out for potholes and once you spot one, use it to inform your decisions about your chosen route, but staying focused on the path beyond will help keep you from driving right into a rut. Whatever you keep looking at, that’s where you’re going to go – be it a pothole or the horizon beyond!
Like heat applied to a popcorn kernel – attention applied to one small kernel of joy I find generally pops and explodes into something even better! (The fact that I really love popcorn has nothing whatsoever to do with this analogy… 🙂 )
Keep cheering yourself on for all the small wins!