What Are You Focusing On?

subconsciousI talked earlier about the concept of Threshold, of reaching a boiling point in your life, of hitting rock bottom and realizing you need to change. But after that, then what? Where do you go from there? Many people have reached that point and they say, “I’m going to make a change, I’m going to turn over a new leaf.” But, you know, they go to bed, they get up the next day, and life goes on and nothing really changes. Well, that’s a good point. Where do you go from there?

Focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want

I think many times we focus on the bad habit or behavior that we want to change and that’s where our mind is, that’s where our attention is, that’s where the vision is, the pictures that we have in our mind. Now I’ll go back to the example of the person who overeats. You know they say, “I’ve got to change, I’ve got to go on a diet, I’ve got to quit eating the food.” They put all of their focus on not eating and they are constantly thinking about food, saying things to themselves like; “I can’t eat the chips and salsa. I can’t eat the chocolate cake in the fridge. I’ve got to count calories.” Their whole focus is all on food, and not eating the food.

Dominant thoughts

The problem is, the picture that you have in your mind when you’re in this mode is of food and your mind draws toward what you have pictures of in your head. Let me rephrase that, not your mind, but whatever pictures you have in your mind; that’s what you’re drawn towards. The person who wants to quit swearing for example, if he’s just constantly telling himself, “I’m not going to swear, I’m not going to swear.” The thoughts in his mind are all about swearing.
The focus can’t be on what it is your trying to stop. It’s got to be on the behavior you’re going to replace it with. So for the person who wants to change the way they look, their physical appearance, their health, they shouldn’t be focusing on not eating food. They should be focusing on what they’re going to look like in six months or a year down the road-what kind of lifestyle are they going to have? It’s got to be a lifestyle change.

“See” what you want

They can’t say, “I’m going to stop eating food for the next ten days” or “I’m going to stop eating until I’m down to a certain weight and then resume my regular lifestyle.” That’s not going to work. You’ve got to see in your mind who you’re going to become. And then once you decide what kind of life you’re going to lead, are you going to be a biker, a runner, are you going to get up and do aerobics, kick boxing, whatever it is, you need to see pictures of yourself in good health, pictures of yourself in your mind having the body, the physique that you want, looking the way you want and then move towards that picture.

Suddenly you start to make changes in your life because your current behavior is incompatible with the way you see yourself. You need to start looking, acting, walking, and talking like that person.

Now that is focusing on a small part of your entire self, your physical body. You can bring this up to even a higher level and see yourself as a completely different person, a person you have described and envisioned in every detail, the real “you” deep inside of you. You begin to change every aspect of your life. It all begins with what you are focusing your mind on on a regular basis. So be aware of your thoughts, be aware of the images and pictures you have in your mind because whatever your dominant thought is, that is what you will create in your life.

Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson

We Hear What We Listen For

Alarm ClockGood morning! Today I want to talk about an interesting phenomenon that actually happened this morning. It has to do with your mind’s ability to block out what it’s not interested in and only let in what it is trained to let in.

What brought this up was what happened this morning when my alarm went off. I have to admit that I hit the snooze button and jumped back in bed to sleep for 10 more minutes. I actually set my alarm 10 minutes earlier than when I plan to get up. So I lay back in bed and slept a little longer. When my alarm went off again and when I woke up I noticed that my wife was already out of bed. She wasn’t there. She had already gotten up to go wake the boys so they could do their paper route.

I thought it was interesting that I didn’t hear her alarm at all. We both have alarm clocks. They are very similar. They each have a red digital readout and their alarms sound very similar. It’s that annoying beep beep beep sound that today’s alarm clocks typically make. The sounds of the two alarm clocks aren’t that different really. They aren’t exactly the same but very similar. I thought it was interesting that my mind, my brain, is trained to hear my alarm clock and not hers. Her alarm didn’t wake me up but mine did. I thought it was interesting that I hear mine but I don’t hear hers. How can that be?

It makes you wonder about what else in life we don’t see or hear because of what our minds have been trained to see or hear. There is a story I once heard that helps us understand this phenomenon.

WE HEAR WHAT WE LISTEN FOR

Two men were walking along a crowded sidewalk in a downtown business area. Suddenly one exclaimed: ‘Listen to the lovely sound of that cricket.’ But the other could not hear. He asked his companion how he could detect the sound of a cricket amid the din of people and traffic. The first man, who was a zoologist, had trained himself to listen to the voices of nature. But he didn’t explain. He simply took a coin out of his pocket and dropped it to the sidewalk, whereupon a dozen people began to look about them. ‘We hear,’ he said, ‘what we listen for.’ –Kermit L. Long, taken from ‘The Three Boxes of Life,’ by Richard Bolles

We hear what we listen for. What are our minds trained to hear? What are out eyes trained to see? What are we conscious of and what are we unconscious of? What are we paying attention to and what are we not paying attention to?

I have read many times about a function of the brain called the RAS. It stands for the Reticular Activating System. Basically it’s what filters things in our brain. It’s what determines what you notice and what you don’t notice. The example that’s usually given, and it’s a great example because many of us have experienced it, is when you purchase a new car. Suddenly you begin to see that car all around you. You never noticed those cars before but now that you own one it’s on your mind, it’s what’s important to you. It’s not that these cars didn’t exist before, it’s just that you didn’t notice them.

I remember years ago I re-roofed my house. I did it myself and it was a huge project for me to do. It was interesting that during the weeks I was involved in that project, everywhere I drove, I noticed roofs. I never noticed roofs before. But since I was heavily involved in it that’s what I noticed. I think I knew everybody’s roof in the neighborhood, what condition it was in and what color it was, because that’s what I paid attention to. To me that was very interesting that suddenly I paid attention to everybody’s roof.

The down side to this is that by focusing your attention on one thing, in reality you are deleting everything else that your mind and body it receiving inputs from – sights, smells, sounds. So what are you deleting in your life? Is it good or is it bad? I think it can be both ways. If your mind let everything in you would be overwhelmed by the amount of information that would be flowing into your brain. You have to have a way of filtering it so that only those things that are important to you really register and make a difference. But we have to be careful not to be so focused on things that other important things get deleted out of our awareness and out of our lives.

So my message for today is to be aware of what you’re not being aware of, pay attention to what you’re not paying attention to. Make sure that we’re not leaving out the important things in life that we should be paying attention to.

Thank you.

Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson

Focus On You, Not Your Problem

Focus

What if I could show you a way to overcome the biggest obstacles in your life that was totally different than the advice you get everywhere else – and what if it really worked? I’m talking about obstacles such as smoking, drinking, anger, overeating, staying up too late, bad relationships or even drug and pornography addictions. Think for a moment about the biggest obstacle that is holding you back in your life. Think about how you’ve been dealing with it. What I want to present today is a better approach to eliminating it from your life.

In order for me to more clearly explain this I want to use a visual example.

The Trail of Life

Obstacle1

Picture yourself walking down a trail (which is exactly what I happen to be doing right now as I record this.) You are walking along a path. This path is your life. You are walking along the trail of life. As you move forward along this trail of life you are progressing and moving forward in your life. A simple analogy.

The Obstacle in Your Path

Now you are going along your merry way and you come across a huge boulder in the trail. It covers the entire path and blocks your way. You can’t go any further. It’s a huge obstacle in your way. You look at the boulder and you think, “How am I going to deal with this? I’ve got to somehow get it out of my way.”

Focusing On Your Obstacle Doesn’t Work

You try pushing on the boulder. You put your back up against it and push with your feet and it doesn’t budge. You run at it and hit it with your shoulder and it doesn’t move. You try to go around it but it’s so big you can’t get around it. You try to climb over it but it’s just too tall. You try to dig under it. You get down on your knees and try to dig with your hands. You scratch and scrape and dig in the hard ground and you make very little progress. You work and work on that boulder and try every way possible to get rid of it and no matter what you do you fail. The more you work on this boulder the more frustrated you get, the more tired you get, the more discouraged you get. It just can’t be done.

Finally you sit down on the trail because you feel like giving up. You think, “What am I going to do? I try and try to get this boulder out of my way and no matter what I do I can’t seem to overcome it.” It’s extremely discouraging and frustrating to you.

The boulder represents the biggest struggle or obstacle you face in your life. This is the thing that’s holding you back the most in your life. You have tried and tried and struggled for years to get rid of this problem from your life with no success.

Change Your Focus

The big revelation here is that you’ve been focusing on the wrong thing. You’ve been putting all of your time and energy and attention into your problem. Strange as it may be, that’s the wrong place to put it.

Obstacle2

I’ve had the opportunity to meet with a number of people who have come to me for counsel with huge issues and problems in their lives that they have struggled with for months and years. Generally this is the case: they have put all their focus and energy on the problem. Usually I will take out a sheet of paper and draw a simple picture of them on the trail with the big rock that stands in their way. I tell them that their focus and energy has been on the wrong thing, on their problem. I then draw a big arrow pointing at the problem.

Work On You, Not Your Problem

Then I draw another arrow pointing at them and say, “This is where you need to be focusing, not on your problem but on yourself.” For most people this is an entirely new concept, something they have never considered. It is the idea that they need to worry and focus on themselves, not their problem.

What does this mean?

Let’s say you are trying to quit smoking. Normally you put all of your efforts into trying not to smoke. You get rid of your cigarettes and you get the nicotine patch and you do the typical things people do to try to quit smoking. It’s constantly on your mind as you try to overcome your smoking habit.

Let’s say it’s overeating. That’s a fairly common one. You struggle so hard to not eat bad foods. You have a long list of the foods you shouldn’t eat and you try everything possible to conquer your habit of overeating.

What I say is that it doesn’t work. What you need to do is focus on strengthening the character traits in yourself that are incompatible with your habit or problem.

In the case of overeating, instead of focusing on not eating certain foods, your focus and energy would be on yourself as far as eating healthy food and exercising. Your focus would be on yourself as a fit and healthy person, instead of focusing on what you don’t want. You get your mind off the boulder and onto yourself.

Obstacle3

Picture in your mind the visual image of you on the trail with the obstacle in your path – the obstacle doesn’t change, you do! You grow! You become large. Compared to you, your obstacle is tiny! It’s not an issue any more because you simply step over it and go on your way. You never even deal directly with the problem because it is now so insignificant. You’ve grown and strengthened yourself so much in that particular area that it’s no longer a problem for you.

Does it Really Work?

You may be wondering if this method really works. Let me share with you a story that happened recently. I was working with a young man who was struggling with pornography. He hated it. He wanted to be free of the temptations and had struggled for some time on his own to stop. Each time he gave-in to temptation he would tell himself, “I’m never going to do that again” only to have it happen again in a few days. He failed because he focused on the problem.

As I worked with him I drew on a chalkboard the picture of the person on the trail with the big obstacle in the way. I told him to quit worrying about his problem and start working on himself.

We came up with some ways that he could strengthen himself spiritually. He determined that he would sincerely pray and read scriptures every day. He also decided to be nicer to his family and just be a better person.

For a number of weeks he worked at this and would report back to me from time to time. Several days ago we met again. He told me that when we began this program the temptations would still come back from time to time. Then he told me that for the last few weeks the temptations were totally gone. He said they never even crossed his mind. He said, “I never even thought about not thinking about it. It was just totally gone.” You should have seen the big smile on his face as he left my office.

My Challenge to You

I would like to challenge you to try this. Determine what is the biggest obstacle you face in your life. What is the thing that holds you back the most? How have you dealt with it? Have you put all your energy into fighting this obstacle directly? If so, I challenge you to change your focus and work on yourself. Make yourself bigger and stronger in the character traits that are incompatible with your obstacle. Work on those every day. Grow yourself to the point where all you need to do is step over your obstacle and continue on you path in life. May you succeed as I have seen many others succeed.

What are your thoughts on dealing with the obstacles your face? What methods have you used to combat these obstacles and have you met with success? Please share your thoughts and/ or experiences in the comments below.

Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson