What You Focus On, You Get More Of
As humans we have a tendency to pay more attention to the negative than the positive. This negativity bias kept us safe when we were hunter-gatherers, helping us to assess threats to our safety by making us sensitive to danger or when things weren’t quite right. Now, as we live in a mostly safe world – at least from immediate threats to our bodies – that ability to search and find what’s wrong has shifted to ourselves, the people around us, and our daily life.
Dr. Becky Bailey, creator of Conscious Discipline, has gifted us with a guideline that can help neutralize our negativity bias. The guideline is: “What you focus on, you get more of.” Remember that our perceptions create our reality. Meaning if I am constantly focusing on what feels wrong, what’s lacking, what’s not good enough, what’s “bad”, I begin to see more of that AND – according to energetics - attract more of that. On the flip side, If I focus more on what feels good, on abundance, on what IS working, then chances are I will get more of that.
There are inevitable moments of life when it feels like nothing is going right. It is more than okay to acknowledge and allow our sadness, grief, fears, anger, and worries to be validated. To ignore those feelings and only focus on the good is a form of toxic positivity, as it causes us to bypass the release and expression of these challenging emotions, leading to bigger challenging feelings as time goes on. The challenge comes more when we dwell on what’s not going well for too long. We wish things to be different because what we are facing is really hard. What this guideline can help support is how to not let our negative perceptions define our reality. Here are some examples of shifting our perceptions.
"I have too much going on and everything feels stressful."
Where in my life do I feel relaxed? How can I bring more relaxation into my life? Write down some options.
“I feel lonely and distant from my loved ones.”
Where and by whom do I feel loved?Write down all the names of people who I love, and who love me. Who can I reach out to in my life on that list?
"The world feels like its full with never-ending problems, it feels scary and hopeless."
What feels safe & hopeful in the world right now? Write down as many positive interactions or experiences you've had lately where things felt safe, good, and even joyful. What do you hope for?
Our negative perceptions can be signals that we need more support, or that the way we live our life needs to change. When we focus on when we feel relaxed rather stressed, or loved rather than lonely, or safety and hope rather than fear and despair, we begin to realize we have more opportunity to have or feel what we want than we thought. While we can’t always control what happens to us, we can control how we perceive it. When we focus on what we do have, what we do like, what feels good, the brighter and less daunting the world can seem – even amidst hard times.
Jamie Quail, MA, LPCC is a Child & Family Therapist and Owner of Wise Nest Counseling, LLC offering play therapy and parent coaching sessions in Boulder, CO.