While it’s important to notice what you don’t want, what isn’t working and what the problem is—it’s crucial you only notice what you don’t want, etc. for reference. It’s like this: You want to take a vacation, and you know you don’t want to go to Iowa or California or wherever.
Will you find your destination if you keep focusing on where you don’t want to go?
Or do you find it if you start brainstorming where you do want to go?
Which gets you to your destination?
Focus can shift.
One morning we may be in a place of solution-focusing, the next day we’re back to only seeing problems. It’s easier to switch to the problem-focusing when we’re in a foul or downtrodden mood. When we’re in continual places of negative feelings—as in we feel rotten all the time—that’s when it’s time to take a look at how you’re thinking about things.
First start letting it be all right that you’re having those feelings. Then…notice the theme of your thoughts. Are they on what you can do? On solutions? Or are they on things never happening, that you’ll always be where you are — on problems?
I’m guilty of this. When I’ve been beset with a lot of closed doors or unhelpful information around finding a solution, it’s easy to slip back into seeing only problems. When I (finally) notice I’m there I do two things:
- I acknowledge I’m feeling that way. I give myself permission.
- I ask myself what I can do in the moment. Not necessarily about the specific issue, but in general. Something that gives me a feeling of accomplishment. This includes simple things like making my bed, cleaning the kitchen, going for a walk, writing a blog post, organizing my sock drawer.
Here are key words to listen for to recognize where your thoughts are:
And so on.
However…notice the feeling behind the words. If it’s foul and rotten, then you’re not solution-focused. Compare these two paragraphs:
I can’t do that. I don’t have the resources. It’s never going to happen, because it’s never happened in the past. I hate how I feel. I hate my life and job. I feel awful, and everything’s just terrible all the time.
And…it ends there.
Now, try this one on:
I can’t do that because I don’t yet have the skills and I want to have them. I don’t have the resources, so I’m going to start doing some research about how I can get them. It’s never going to happen if I stay where I am and I keep thinking about myself like this, because it’s never happened in the past for that very reason. I hate how I feel, and so I’m going to do something about it. I’m going to (insert brainstorming ideas). I hate my life and job and so I’m going to do something about this…don’t know what yet — but I think I can figure it out. I feel awful, and everything’s just terrible all the time. So it’s time to get this resolved!
Example #1 is someone who’s fully focused on what he or she doesn’t want. Example #2 is on what they want — resources, skills, etc. — and they have action steps coming up. #1 is problem-focused, #2 is solution-focused.
Here’s the easy bit. Yes…you know what you don’t want. If you can’t sort out what you do want…write down the opposite.
Telling yourself you don’t want despair and anger isn’t the same thing as saying you want joy and happiness. Telling yourself what you don’t have and don’t want, isn’t the same thing as telling yourself ways you can create what you do want.
Otherwise, it’s like saying to a decorator you’ve hired, “I just want my living room to look different.” The decorator is going to need specifics. And not just, “No, I don’t like those drapes. No. I don’t like that fabric. No, I don’t like that color.” “No, I don’t want art deco.” The decorator needs to hear what you want, at least generally so. That way you can both start brainstorming.
Or think of it like this. You hire a taxi and you say, in answer to the driver’s query of, “Where to?” you answer, “I don’t want to go to Miami.” Instead, you’d reply, “I want to go home,” and give the address.
However, sometimes you’re simply going to find yourself in the doldrums. Locked in negative thinking That’s okay. It happens now and then. Sometimes the best you can cobble together is simply to be not negative. Which is not necessarily positive…but neither is it negative. And sometimes, you have to let yourself descend into anger or a pity party. The key aspect is to not stay there.
The funny thing about giving yourself permission to feel negative is that the draw and appeal to keep thinking that way fades. After a time, you begin to realize how unhelpful it is, and so you remain in that way of thinking less and less.
We’re not a culture that’s necessarily conditioned to think of what we want, rather than what we don’t want. We don’t like X politician. We don’t like X about our lives. We don’t like X about Y. When I pause a client and ask them, “So you’re very clear on what you don’t want, what is it you do want?” 9 times out of 10, quite often, they pause and say, “Well, I don’t know.”
Here’s the thing, and I agree with this. Joe Vitale, author of The Attractor Factor—as well as many other books—says you do know. And when you say you don’t, you’re lying to yourself.
Why would you lie to yourself?
For a variety of reasons, most of the time, the root cause, all the way down deep, is fear.
Why would someone fear what they want?
Also for a variety of reasons. Fear of completion (they don’t know what would come next). Fear of change (that old classic). Fear of losing what they already have (even though it might not fit them so well). Lack of skills to get it (even though they can be learned). There’s a litany of reasons.
But as long as you remain mindful of focusing on the HOW factor of creating what you want, you’ll get all that sorted out. As long as you say to yourself, “I don’t know how I’m going to do that — yet,” then you’re putting out your radar for answers.”
As long as you remain aware of where your focus currently is, then you can move into solution-mode. Just remember — if your focus is currently on negative thinking, notice it, become aware of it, and then allow yourself to have it, while reminding yourself that you’ll let go of it when you’re ready.
Mindfulness comes and goes.
There will be days when you’re acutely aware and mindful, and other days when you’re puttering along, back in unconscious mode. As soon as you notice you’re there, do something to pull yourself out of it, even if it’s just becoming acutely aware that you’re focusing on the negative. That your mind is running amok. And then listen to it with full curiosity…you might hear some intriguing things and get some more awareness of where your habitual mode of thinking runs.
As long as your overall focus is on, “I don’t know HOW — yet,” even over the griping and feeling that you don’t know what to do, that’s all that matters. It’s when the umbrella focus is also on can’t that trouble begins.
So maybe you don’t know what it is you want. Or how to get there.
But…if you did know, what would the answer be?
Questions? Comments? Email me at heather (at) smallchangelife (dot) org or drop by my Facebook page and leave me a message, leave a comment below or feel free to start up a conversation in the discussion forum.