Focus is a powerful thing. When used correctly, it has the potential to help us get our life back in balance and have more objective perspectives of what is going on in our lives, which in turn allows us to take a step back and make better and more informed decisions. When used incorrectly, however, focus has the potential to cause us to feel utterly out of balance and become subjective, which in turn causes us to make rushed, uneducated decisions or poor choices that we may later regret, not to mention causing us added stress and anxiety about what may be going on.
Let me give you an example:
Take a moment to quickly evaluate your life as a whole and rate your current situation using a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 means you are at your ideal, exactly where you want to be, and 1 means there is MUCH room for improvement. Now fold a piece of paper in half, and on one half of it make a list of the good or positive things in your life as it is right now and on the other half make a list of what you consider bad or negative things that you would like to change or improve on.
Let’s say rated your current situation a 4. On one side of the paper you would list what’s good about your life right now; these are the things that helped you to rate your situation at this number. You could add things like:
I have a home
I have a job
I am healthy
I have a family that loves me
I do make some money
I can pay most of my bills on time
On the other side of the paper you would list the bad or negative things currently going on in your life. These are the things which, when changed or improved, would help you to rate your life a 9 or a 10. You could add things such as:
My relationship with (…) sucks
I have no savings in the bank
I am fat
My car is old and broken
I don’t have money to vacation
So, in this example, the positive side is a 4 (because that’s what you rated your current situation) and the negative side is a 6 (the difference in the 1-10 scale). Now take a look at your paper with your lists side by side and read them again. How does it make you feel? Do you still believe you rated your life accurately? If you did this exercise honestly, you’ll probably realize that your initial rating was lower than it should have been. I’m also willing to bet that as you were doing the exercise you had an easier time coming up with things to write on the “negative” side of the paper than on the “positive” side. This is because on a day-to-day basis we’re generally mostly thinking about what is lacking in our lives rather than on the blessings that we already have. Our focus is mostly on what is missing, what is wrong, what is broken, what needs to be improved.
Imagine that your life is graphed on a line like this one. We’ll place an x on it to indicate your rating:
Now we’ll turn this into a scale or a balance by adding a support under it like this:
Which way is the scale currently going to tilt? It’s pretty obvious, right? It will tilt towards the “bad” side like this:
But now we’ll add something to our diagram; we’ll add focus which, for the purpose of this illustration weighs a full 10. If we add it to the “bad” side of the scale, we’re stuck. In spite of the good things that are going on in our lives, we’ll continue to feel like nothing is working, like everything is bad, like this is a hopeless situation, because our focus is on what’s wrong, missing, or broken in our lives. When this happens, we may enter a state of despair, depression, hopelessness, anxiety, sorrow, etc., and we miss out on appreciating and enjoying the blessings that we do have.
But what would happen if we shifted that focus and placed it on the “good” side of the scale? What will happen is that even with the rating remaining at 4 we will have managed to tilt the scale in favor of what’s good in our lives, and here’s where we can truly shift our perspective.
Here’s where we can truly see and accept that, while there is plenty of room for improvement, our life is already good. Here’s where appreciation and gratitude can truly take place, because our focus is now on our blessings, on what is working and what is positive in our lives. We’re not denying that there is room for improvement; we’re simply focusing our attention on what is already working because that is what’s going to help us get even better so that our diagram looks like this:
What we focus on expands
What we focus on expands, and what we resist persists. Focusing our attention on what is “bad” in our lives and resisting it or fighting it will only cause it to increase and persist. It’s like trying to get out of a hole by digging the hole deeper. This is not an efficient way of going about improving our situation. A more efficient and effective way would be to focus on what is already working and then figuring out how we can do more of it or expand it to other areas of our lives.
I picked a very low rating as an example to demonstrate that even with such a low rating we can shift our focus and gain a better perspective. No matter how bad we think our life situation is, there is definitely much good going on already and there are definitely many things that are working. So I invite you to add the weight and power of focus to all the good that is already going on in your life and see how much better you’ll instantly feel as a result of it. You will not regret it.
To your success!