Knowing how to change your focus can mean the difference between a life of bliss and a life of frustration. In the previous post, The Love of Bad News, I wrote about how focusing on what’s bad in your life will not only make you feel down and even depressed, it will also tend to bring even more circumstances and events into your life to feel bad about.
The reason is simply because we get what we focus on. You can have a ton of great things going on in your life but still feel miserable if you keep focusing on the things that aren’t so great. So knowing how to change your focus is a critical skill to have.
What Determines Focus
In order to know how to change your focus, you must first understand what determines it in the first place. Let me explain by asking you some questions. For this to work, you need to actually think about the answers and not just read them. Ready?
What’s the biggest concern in your life right now?
What areas of your life aren’t going so well?
What are you most unhappy with your currently?
As you think of these questions, notice how you feel. Now let me ask you some different questions.
What’s going well for you right now?
What areas of your life are you most proud of?
What are you happy or excited about right now?
Notice how you feel now. If you actually put the effort into coming up with answers and not just read the questions or thinking, “I don’t know” to each one, then you would’ve noticed a change of focus and feeling from the first set of questions to the second set of questions.
What has really changed exactly? Even though the second set of questions made you better about your life than the first, in terms of circumstances, nothing has really changed at the moment. You don’t have to have certain things happen in order to start feeling better about your life, you just need to focus on the right things.
So what’s the point of all this? The way you feel is largely determined by what you focus on. What you focus on is largely determined by the conscious and unconscious questions you ask yourself on a regular basis. That means that you can control your focus by controlling the questions you ask yourself.
We ask ourselves tons of questions everyday. Most of them are unconscious due to habit. Now that you are aware of this fact, you can begin to consciously ask the right questions and make them into unconscious habitual questions. If you can control the questions you ask yourself, you can change your focus and control how you feel regardless of what the circumstances are.
Types of Questions
There are two basic types of questions that you should know. Empowering questions and disempowering questions. The first is useful, the second is useless. Let me give you an example.
Say you just lost your job and things are getting pretty bad. You’re running out of money and don’t know what to do. How you react to this situation will largely be based on how you interpret it. How you interpret it will largely be based on what you focus on, which of course is largely based on what questions you ask yourself.
Why me? Why can’t I ever get a break? What’s with this bad luck lately? Why can’t the government do their job? How can they fire me after I’ve given half my life to that company? I’m a good person, why is this happening to me?
Do you see how asking these questions can get you feeling pretty lousy? These questions basically make you focus on how you’re the victim and how your situation is completely hopeless.
When you’re in a disempowering state of mind, you spend most of your time complaining and blaming. Even when you try to figure out how to get out of this mess, you do it in a negative “pissed off” way and when things don’t work out, more complaining and blaming comes out. It can be a vicious downward spiral. You must change your focus.
What’s good about this situation that I’m probably overlooking? Since sitting here feeling sorry for myself won’t do much, what actions can I take right now to improve my situation? Even though times are bad, what am I thankful for in my life right now?
Do you see the difference in what the two sets of questions can make? The empowering questions help put you in a state of mind that is much more effective in finding solutions to your ordeal. These questions put you in control of the situation rather than make you a victim of it. You can either focus on why your life is pure crap and continue to whine about it or you can focus on the things that you are grateful for and from that state figure out how to improve your situation.
A Useful Question to Ask
Here’s a useful question that I often ask myself.
Is there anything I can do right now to change this situation?
If the answer is yes, then I focus on what to do immediately to change it. If the answer is no, then I focus on what’s good about the situation.
For example, if you’re stuck in traffic, instead of being frustrated or stressed out, ask yourself if there’s anything you can do to right now to change this situation. If the answer is no, you must change your focus by asking something like, “Since I’m stuck in traffic anyway, what can I do to make the most of this situation?”
Being in traffic never frustrates me since I always have audio programs to make the best use of my time. If it’s something you can’t do anything about, why even sweat about it? Or you can focus on the fact that at least you don’t have a flat tire or you’re not the one in the accident that’s probably causing the traffic.
How to Make Empowering Questions into Habits
As I stated in my love of bad news post, with all the focus on what’s negative in our media, it’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on what’s negative in your own life. As I stated earlier, most of our questions we ask ourselves are unconscious habitual ones. So if you have a habit of asking disempowering questions that make you feel lousy all the time, how do you change it?
1. Start by consciously asking yourself empowering questions. (Morning Ritual)
A good time to do this is first thing in the morning when you wake up. As you’re getting ready for the day, ask yourself questions like: What am I most happy about in my life right now? What am I grateful about right now? What in my life is going really well for me right now?
When I ask myself these questions, here are some of the things I think about. I have my eyesight, I’m able to walk, I have all my fingers and toes, I have a roof over my head, I’m healthy, I have people who love me, I have a bed to sleep on, I have food to eat, I can read and write, I live in a world where I can access information with a click of a button through the internet, I can play the piano and write music, I have a car to drive, I have a website that reaches people all over the world…etc.
Your answers can be anything big or small. The important thing is when you think about what you’re grateful about, really feel the feelings of being grateful, don’t just think about it. I do this in the morning for about 5-10 minutes while listening to the theme song from Forest Gump. It’s powerful stuff. I get tears of joy when I do this. It can change your life as it did for me.
2. When you catch yourself asking disempowering questions, stop and change them.
Notice the type of questions you’re asking yourself. When you’re able to become aware of those disempowering questions, you’re able to stop them and change your questions into empowering ones.
If you’re asking yourself, “Why am I so fat?” and feeling bad about it, notice the question, stop, and then ask yourself something like, “What can I do to not only lose weight and get fit but do it in an enjoyable and healthy way?”
Making empowering questions into habits is pretty simple. Keep asking empowering questions and when you catch yourself asking disempowering questions, immediately change them into empowering ones. Do that over and over and it’ll eventually become a habit to ask empowering questions. Once that happens, you will effectively be able to change your focus.
Conclusion: The Battle Between Good and Evil
Since it’s easier to focus on what sucks in your life due to the constant focus the media and society puts on the negative, it’s up to you to control and change your focus. Focusing on what’s good doesn’t mean you ignore your problems. Problems just don’t go away. You have to do something about them.
The challenge is how are you going to remain positive when there are so many reasons to be negative? Change your focus. When you start to change your focus and concentrate on what’s good in your life, even in the worst circumstances, you will begin to notice more events coming into your life to feel good about.
You’ll also be in a better state of mind and will be able to solve your problems more effectively. Many troubled companies have been completely turned around because someone decided to ask the right questions and focused on what can be done while everyone else asked the wrong questions and focused on why things are so bad.
When things get tough, when life seems to suck, when nothing is going your way, what will you focus on? Just know that what you choose to focus on will determine the quality of your life.
Change your questions, change your focus. Change your focus, change your life.