Focus on the good instead

Walking through the office I felt my blood boiling, and it showed. When my coach approached me on the hallway he pulled me in the next available meeting room. He shut the door just in time. After ‘I cried my eyeballs out’ (as a friend would eloquently put it), I took a breath and all the frustration came out in one long stream. I was frustrated with myself to be precise. “I just can’t do this!”

I don’t know what it was about, but I still remember what my coach said to me: “we always focus on what we can’t do, or don’t do right, instead of what we can”.

That in itself is not so surprising. It’s how we are evolutionarily wired. Our minds naturally focus on the bad and discard the good. It was much more important for our ancestors to avoid threats than to collect rewards. Even though we are not in the savannah being chased by wild animals anymore, our brains have not yet caught up with that.

This plays out in many peculiar ways in our daily lives. Take for instance how we perceive ourselves, how we give ourselves feedback. In our modern virtual world video calling has become the norm. Before you log in to your Zoom meeting it gives you the ability to check your camera. Go back to the last time (probably today!) you did this – what is the first thing you notice? ‘Gosh I look tired!’ ‘That light really doesn’t work!’ ‘I should have…’  We are so used to look at what is not good. It’s called negative thinking, and it’s proven it has a negative impact on your health and well being. So what to do?

Acknowledging is the first step, being aware that you do it. Also notice that it is the first thought that comes up in any given situation. Try to be neutral about it. Don’t overshadow a negative thought with another negative one. ‘I’m doing it again!’ Give yourself some slack, everyone has these thoughts.

Try to take a step back, observe, and ask yourself what can I think instead? It doesn’t  mean you need to run around like Mohammed Ali I’m the greatest! (unless of course you are ;-)). Honesty and sincerity are vital. What is good about this situation? What am I going to contribute to this meeting? What is my mindset, my strength?

That’s exactly what my coach did when he made that comment. That comment shifted my mindset. I still have negative thoughts, everyone does, so what. Nowadays I’m able to take a step back, notice it and move beyond it. 

What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?  Erin Hanson

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