What you focus on is what you will see
No, this is not a “state the obvious” blog post – it’s not about seeing what you look at.
It is about how our focus includes and excludes things from our field of vision.
In normal life, it looks like this:
My children love to spot and count yellow cars in traffic (anything really to compete with each other, but that is a blog post for another day). Though I don’t participate in their game, I now notice yellow cars even when they are not with me in the car! The focus has created an awareness has created a “standing out” of yellow cars.
Let’s get a little bit closer to my field of work:
Women wanting to conceive but having difficulties with it have an increased focus on and thus awareness for pregnant women and babies. They will literally “see babies everywhere” – yet the amount of babies hasn’t changed of course, but they are taking a much increased notice of them.
Basically our brain filters in and out information. Things it thinks we need to see (or hear, smell etc) or which it thinks are not relevant to us. In that way, our sense of smell will stop smelling something once we got used to it (putting it in the background if you want) to ensure we don’t miss any new smells (this used to be key to the survival of our species).
Our brain even goes a little bit further though in this – and that can be good or bad: our focus will also determine how we process the information we are given.
If I assume that life is dangerous, I will focus on preventing danger, and hence see it everywhere.
If I assume life is fun, I will see opportunities for fun.
Same life, same facts, different perspectives.
I was raised by a pessimistic perfectionist (my father) and have taken on some of his traits. It is easier for me to see flaws than to see the rest (i.e. I see the pimple and not the face). This is a well-ensconced focus in my life, but that I have to battle against if I don’t want to sink into doom and gloom.
And this is where the interesting bit comes in – how can we change our focus, when it is usually something that is very much part of us? I can’t become an optimist just by wanting it (trust me, I’ve tried).
I found that what works the best is to imagine the opposite. Instead of focusing just on doom and gloom, I visualise what I actually would like to see. I imagine – yes, preferably in images, not just words – what a good outcome would be like.
It works in at least two ways:
First, I spend less time in doom and gloom, which helps.
Second, by imagining good outcomes I can often see ways to achieve those, and get started on actually making them happen.
It’s the whole difference between just trying to ward off bad stuff and actively seeking out good stuff.
Just take a minute to think:
What is your focus directed on?
How do you influence your perception of reality?