Moving away or moving towards. Where do you direct your energy and focus? Do you want to be healthy or avoid being sick? Careful what you ask for.
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Most people will spend much more energy moving away from something they don’t want than moving towards something they do want. Many of us probably don’t realize how significant an impact both can have for our “outlook on life”.
Whilst I have had to work hard at this, having been more of an “away from” person, I have learned that defining (ie goal setting) and focussing on what I want is much more conducive to achieving the outcomes that I seek than avoiding what I don’t want. This may often seen as a more “intuitive” view of things, but there is quite some science backing this up.
Professor at the Drucker School of Management in California and former chairman of the Dept of Psychology at the University Chicago, and author of the famous book “Flow”, Mihali Czsikzentmihalyi speaks of the unconscious mind not being able to process a double negative. eg you can’t not think about something without thinking about it first . If I said: “don’t think of a blue tree”, you usually have to think about a blue tree before you can’t think about it, right? I’ve learned how this applies when we say things (aloud or inside) so I have become much more aware of what I think or say.
Like if you say:”I don’t want to be broke“– your unconscious mind hears and stores broke and is far more likely to feed you perspectives around broke. Conversely, if you say:”I want to be wealthy” guess what it is far more likely to happen… So the simple but powerful message here is: “focus on defining what you want, not avoiding what you don’t want”.
NLP and personal development guru Chris Howard speaks of “perception is projection” and uses the example of snapping on a torch in a dark room and illuminating a particular corner and highlighting that while focussed on pinpointing light on that corner, one can see little or nothing else in the rest of the room still in darkness. Let’s say that corner represents “poverty”. That is all we see, not knowing that perhaps in the opposite corner we could see “wealth”. In this example he is also simply but powerfully implying that what we focus on is what we get. It’s like a search engine. If we Google “wealth” we get over 100 million links talking about wealth, none of which say anything about poverty other than to draw an opposite or a comparison.
So can you agree with me that the likelihood of us being more motivated and focused to go about getting the results or outcomes we are looking for when we define something we do want, is much greater than the other way around? (Could this perhaps have something to do with how much people often struggle to set goals?)
If you can, then whilst we might initially think: “the way I look at things is because that’s the way I am”, could you also see that that like a belief, this is no absolute? That once recognized, it is something we can change? Something you can change – if you choose to?
Think of that “little inner voice” or what is also called our ongoing “mind chatter” which I write about in Self Talk. In many cases it has a knack of dwelling or harping on avoiding what we don’t want, doesn’t it? Keeping us from mucking up. Professionals that live and work “life at cause” have learned to stop listening to that inner voice and to talk over it. I used affirmations to help me achieve that transition, where over a period of years reading specific affirmations aloud to myself each day, I managed to reverse decades of conditioning and unresourceful self beliefs. Shad Helmstetter wrote a wonderful book called “What to say when you talk to yourself”. I recommend it, if this blog has in any way “struck a chord” with you.
So over the coming weeks, why not allow yourself to notice which of these two you tend to favour in your thinking and in your attitude and behaviour? It could be the start of a brand new chapter in your outlook, perhaps assisting you to shift your “glass half empty” or strengthen your “glass half full ” perspective. Also, this can be developed into a skill of recognizing people’s preference of this approach, and can be an important “soft skill” in terms of being able to “match” their preference, which in my advanced rapport building and communication skills grooming or training I refer to as “speaking their language”.