What You Focus Your Attention on Is What You Get!

Copyright 2006 Laura Howard

Cheryl Richardson, a favorite author and fellow coach, has written a new book called “Stand Up for Your Life”. In this book she talks about how our society tends to “bond over stress instead of success”. I see this in action every day in my own life and in the lives of my clients.

We tend to give each other permission to complain freely- it’s actually become the way we interact with others. It’s OK to compare stresses or say something negative to a total stranger for the sake of opening a conversation and relating to each other. For example, you get in the elevator on a rainy day, “Some storm! Traffic was terrible!”. We feel free to talk about what’s wrong with everything from traffic, weather, the kids, the husband/wife, work, the messy house to crowded/late flights.

So what’s wrong with this you might ask? Well, it creates constant whining and complaining if you’re not careful!! While each of these little snippets of conversation seem meaningless, when you look at an entire day it can really add up to a negative outlook on life. With this negative way of thinking it can be hard to believe in our dreams, be truly happy and feel gratitude for our life.

We tend to look for evidence of life being hard/bad/difficult so we can share it with someone or to prove our point. I know I’ve been a creator of my own “negative spiral”. I have gone through a day looking for evidence to support how tough my life is. I awaken with a sinus headache and immediately think it’s going to be a “bad day” and then I find all the proof I need…there’s traffic, I’m out of gas, I forgot the baby bottles, I’m late, etc… When we keep our focus on looking for this evidence it’s no surprise that we do in fact have a bad day.

What if you started a conversation with a success? Something like…”Hey, the greatest thing happened today…..I got a new client, how about those beautiful flowers out front, or I made the best dinner last night!” What if you started looking for evidence of “Having a Great Day”.

Recently Psychology Today reported how a positive attitude can help you live longer because you feel like you have more control over your life. Your energy will amp up because you are choosing to not focus on your life using the media mentality of “the sky is always falling”. And in the simplest of terms…the smile on your face is more likely to put a smile on someone else’s face!

When was the last time you actually encouraged someone to talk about what’s going well in their life? We naturally do this with our kids. We listen while they tell us how they made a slam dunk or read a new word. I often ask my son, Nicholas,” What’s the most awesome thing that happened to you today?” I get the best answers! It’s usually funny which makes me laugh and it definitely makes me feel like we shared something real about his day.

A friend of mine, Sherean, has that positive outlook on life and for the people who are in her life. She fully believes that I am creative, resourceful and fully capable of doing anything I want to do. She values my opinions, encourages my ideas, and I can talk about my success (yes, even brag – oh my!). She lets me “shine my light” when we’re together. Just planning a lunch with her gets me in such a good mood. My creative juices go into overdrive and my energy sparks just knowing that it’s such a supportive alliance. In fact, by letting me shine it gives her permission to do the same and the value is multiplied! It always results in an incredibly uplifting and motivating conversation that carries into the rest of our day.

We certainly need to have the support of close friends and family who we can let it all hang out with – it’s helpful to be able to ponder and process the difficulties in life and share solutions. But we can also choose our focus.

So where are you focusing your attention in your life? How does this support your vision for how you want your life to be?

LIFE SKILLS : 4 Ways to Increase Your Awareness and Change Your Attitude

1. For the rest of the day, notice how often you bond with others over complaining about something. Just by noticing you create an awareness of your behavior and that alone can lead to inspired change.

2. Play a game for one day and don’t say anything negative. No whining. No complaining. No bonding over stress. Notice how you feel in this situation. Some people find this really hard to do. There can be a bit of panic….now what do we talk about??

3. Next idea….Think of something positive to say AND say it! Say it to the cashier, to the drive through attendant when getting coffee, to the person in the elevator, to your boss, to your coworker at lunch, to your girlfriend…

4. Give someone else permission to shine. Ask them a questions like: What was the best part of your day? What energizes you? Tell me something good! So, what great thing did your son do today? Know that when you do, at the least, you’ll feel good and maybe, some of the light will rub off and you’ll find increased energy and inspiration – you’ll feel good!!