Tag Archive: focus

Turning off the negative, turning on the positive

Isn’t it amazing how, in a room of 200, I’ll focus on that one person in the third row at the left who is clearly bored with what I’m saying. Marie Forleo talks about this in a recent broadcast. It isn’t only me, it’s a wired-in trait of humans in general called Negativity Bias.

Negativity Bias, according to Wikipedia, refers to the idea that even with things of equal intensity, those that are negative will impact us more than those that are positive.  The theory is that noticing the negative is a survival trait that helps us attend to anything potentially life-threatening.  It makes sense to me. That that guy in the third row isn’t threatening my life; it just seems like it to my fragile sense of self.
There’s a lot of good advice in googleland dealing with the impact of negative bias. Here are three that work – every time – for me:

  • Switch your focus.  When you notice you’re focusing on that one person, deliberately search out another person who is engaged with you. Not an easy thing to do, especially given our brains are wired to not do this.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t override the wired-in. By understanding what’s happening, we can inject a little distance between our perception of the event and our response. Even if we don’t achieve a full turn-around, we can at least lessen the bad feeling. It takes work to see the upside when you’ve seen the downside, but you can do it; and the more you do it the more habitual this becomes.
  • Practice positive self-talk. It may be that you really misread your audience, or you suddenly feel ill and need to finish.  It may be one of those days where everything goes wrong, and you really do suck. We all have days and times like that. If this happens to you, first of all, know that you’re not alone. And then become your own positive audience: this is the best you can do right now. Then take yourself out for a soothing tea and desert afterwards, celebrating the challenging occasion.  After all, what’s the alternative?  Slinking to a dark corner and licking your wounds? Accept the situation for what it is, and more on.
  • Learn from it.  The reason we have this automatic response that makes the negative focal is to make our world safer. So use it: if you can, find out if the person you thought was bored with you would be interested in sharing what was going on for them.  This is something that requires tact and thoughtfulness on your part. After all, he doesn’t have to say anything – it’s to your benefit if he does. You might even discover that his response was different from what you were thinking, creating an opening for a genuine and contactful conversation.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

Getting Stuck in the Negatives

Quote of the Week
When someone tells me ‘No’, it doesn’t mean I can’t do it, it simply means I can’t do it with them.
-Karen Miller

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

3 Secrets of Success

In North America, both in the US and in Canada (and – really – the world over), earning a good living, having a house, paying for your kid’s education, saving for retirement – all the things we all thought we’d be doing when we grew up – is no longer all that attainable for over 90% of us.  It may seem like it when you look at the number of house purchases. But if you dig even a tiny bit deeper, the real cost of getting that house shows up. In Toronto, we call it being “house poor”, because every cent you make goes into paying down the mortgage. For years. In fact, mortgages are routinely generated over 25 or 30 years, because otherwise it would be impossible to hold one.  This, along with student loans and other debts, generate huge debt loads that tie us down to whatever jobs we can get. Until we’re old.

I’ve talked about this before in The Wisdom of Insecurity. It’s one of the drivers for the tiny home movement: finding ways to shed that debt load and attain the freedom to do what you truly want to do. You might dream of winning the lottery, or making it big in business, spending thousands on the few coaches who have made it big in the hope that it’ll happen for you, too.  Sadly, I suspect that mostly isn’t true.

So, what is the answer? Making it big? Or not?  Either way, the reason for wanting to try is because you – like me – probably want to live a happy and fulfilling life.

If you could have that life, with or without a lot of money – wouldn’t that feel like success?  It would for me. The older I get, the more I value my health and the health and well-being of my loved ones. The more I value living in a community of happy and contented people.  Money, as long as my basic needs are taken care of, matters less and less to me.

What is success?  According to the online dictionary, it’s the accomplishment of one’s goals.  That is a kind of success. But life success – feeling successful and happy life, is more than that: it’s accomplishing the goals that mean a lot to us.  Richard St. John in his Ted Talk (below) lists 8 secrets that he gleaned from successful people.

I believe these 8 things can be narrowed down to 3:

  1. Passion: Passion for whatever it is you’re doing means that you’ll happily do whatever it takes to get it done. Passion will get you through the mistakes, inevitable failed attempts, criticisms, and dark nights. Working at something that you’re not passionate about is work. Doing something you love is fun – not work. It may be that you’re not sure if you’re passionate enough in what you want to do right now.  That’s OK – do it until something else takes over. There is no ultimate answer to what you should pursue – only that you love doing it.
  2. Focus: You may think this is a no-brainer, but believe me, doing what you love can be terrifying. All the nay-sayers, the bills, the lost security can make it really hard to focus on what’s truly important.  When I feel stuck, it’s always because I’m sitting in fear, where there are a lot of inner voices telling me that I’m not good enough, that I’m going to fail, that this is a stupid idea.  Then I distract myself with anything else so that I don’t have to feel that terror, ultimately wasting my time on what doesn’t matter.  If this happens to you, having a friend to talk to can help. And if that isn’t an option, try this: take your worst fear – say it’s “No matter what I do, I’m going to fail” – and turn it around to something that gives your heart a lift – like “No matter what I do, I’m going to win” (because in the long run, that’s what’s going to happen).  Use this turn-around whenever you begin to feel that fear, as a way to regain your focus.
  3. Love: This may seem corny, but honestly, if your feeling of love and good will towards yourself and others doesn’t increase with what you’re doing, then it probably won’t be sustainable.  Because without this kind of love, how can there be happiness.

Having said all that, if you want the added bonus of financial success, go for it! But first, go after your heart’s desire, because without that, money isn’t going to do it.
Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

Richard St. John – 8 Secrets of Success success

Quote of the Week

Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.

– Maya Angelou

 

Announcements

At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

Hurt People and Free People

hurt people hurt people and free people free people – anon

I first heard that phrase in an interview with Sarah Jones.  I thought it perfectly captured the dynamics of both sets of people.  When I’m hurting, I’m miserable and all my focus is on my misery. When I’m feeling great, the exact opposite is true: anything that happens during that time is completely workable.  There is nothing that really gets to me.  I’m generous with myself and others, helpful in a real way, and generally positive and energized.

I’m really no different from anyone else in this way.  To prove my point, if you’ve ever wanted something really badly – say, a red VW Beatle (are there any of those outside Mexico anymore?) – then all of a sudden, you will – guaranteed – begin to see an amazing number of red VW Beatles, or at least red cars.  Every time a red car is in your line of vision, it will literally grab your attention.  It’s like being in an auditorium and hearing your name: you may not have heard anything else, but you will hear your name.

Whatever I’m focused on is what I’m going to notice.  So, when I’m miserable, I’ll notice things that make me more miserable.  And even more, I’ll want subconsciously – or even unconsciously – to be with others who are miserable.  That old saying “misery loves company” should really read (as a psych prof of mine once said) “misery loves equally miserable company”.

And, when I’m feeling great, my focus is on that great feeling. And I want everyone around me to feel that great.

It reminds me of what I heard many different inspirational people say: if you’re simply surviving and not thriving, there is no way you can wish anything better on others.  The focus must be solely on survival. I don’t know if this is a law of nature, but it seems so. Sometimes, however, we only feel we are surviving; and simply feeling this will make us act as if that’s all we’re doing: surviving.  There may not be anything we can do when we are truly barely surviving – all our resources really must be focused on survival – but we can do something about our mindset if we’re beyond that point but don’t know it. Like the relative who has a million dollars in the bank but still rummages around garbage bins looking for cast-away produce (yes, I have known people who do this) – not because they believe in not wasting anything, but because they believe they are barely surviving.

For me, the way I got myself out of feeling I was only surviving, was understanding what I was doing to those I cared about.  I was making them as miserable as I felt, without realizing this.  I simply couldn’t help it! As long as I was focused on surviving, this was bound to happen.  For me, that realization snapped me out of the survival mindset, creating a crack in my armor, and I was able to see the truth of my situation.
Today, I don’t have a million dollars in the bank, but I can still feed and shelter myself. I’m careful with my money so that I can use it to live well and happily. Instead I spend a great deal of my time volunteering and finding ways of helping those in my community.

I love what I do, and a big part of why I love it is my focus.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

Pastor Rick – Surviving isn’t thriving

hurt people

Quote of the Week

If human beings are perceived as potentials rather than problems, as possessing strengths instead of weaknesses, as unlimited rather than dull and unresponsive, then they thrive and grow in their capabilities.
― Barbara Bush

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

The power of adversity

adversity

I grew up in chaos.  My mother contracted MS early on, then miraculously went into remission, leaving only numb fingers for some years.  Later on, the nerve damage was more impactful, but most of the time growing up, her MS had only one major impact on the rest of us.  That’s right, chaos.

You see, as she was lying on her bed, day after day, unable to move or see, she would contemplate many things; and the biggest thing was: what was truly important to her.  As a result, when the miracle happened, she no longer considered things like housework and order to be all that important.  Creativity, on the other hand, was vastly important, but only a certain kind of creativity – creativity that led to practical solutions, and that bettered our lot in what she considered a meaningful way every day.  So, art was out, but sewing and designing clothing was in; ballet was out, but working in clay creating pots and dinner-wear was in; writing was out but cooking well definitely was in.  One other thing that happened is that us kids were expected to take up the slack in housekeeping, and even though I won’t go into what that looked like, I will suggest you take a few creative moments imagining what 4 kids might do with it.

This molded certain ways I operated into adulthood.  For instance, I would witness friends and associates struggling with whether or not to do what their parents were against, and would get that, in this way, I was fortunate.  I remember thinking more than once as an adult making my own way:  Wow!  This would have been a lot harder if I hadn’t grown up with chaos! We were a pretty independent bunch, and that gave me something very precious: personal power.

Yes, there were many ways in which I didn’t have this power and had to learn to regain it, but not when it came to my own independence. I had that in spades, and all because of the adversity I met in childhood.

Research and scholarly wisdom has thus far focused on the detrimental effects of childhood abuse and/or adversity. Willem Frankenhuis and Carolina de Weerth in their research paper Does Early-Life Exposure to Stress Shape or Impare Cognigion?  discuss evidence showing that, in addition to the detrimental impact of childhood abuse, there are some positives.  This doesn’t negate the negative impacts of such abuse, which can be severe, far reaching, and difficult to correct.  What it does show is that adults who experienced childhood abuse or adversity have, compared to safely nurtured children, better skills that help them deal with potential threats.  These people are better at detection, learning, and memory on tasks that protect them from these possible dangers.

One often-sited example is the study where children are given the option of delayed or immediate gratification, knowing they will receive a larger treat if they delay than if they don’t delay.  Children raised in an emotionally safe environment will opt for delayed gratification; those raised in a stressed unsafe one will opt for the “fast” immediate option, strategizing that something is better than nothing.  These children can never count on a stable environment and so they take what is offered in the moment rather than wait for what might never happen. Both strategies make sense, considering the two different environments.

Another example is the ability to shift focus in unpredictable environments.  Adults from adverse childhood backgrounds are, on the whole, better at shifting focus without loss of accuracy than their peers from stable childhood backgrounds. In other words, flexibility in times of instability is easier for the first set of adults, which is an asset in unsafe times.

The big learning for me from this study is this: no matter what our background is, children take whatever situation they end up with and adapt as best they can.  In Gestalt Therapy, this is called Creative Adjustment. It’s wonderful to know that we have this capacity in us; it’s something some of us can truly appreciate as a strength that is well-earned.

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .