Do you often operate in “distracted from distraction by distraction” mode?
Did you know you can learn to do otherwise?
In today’s world, we can easily select what we’d like to view, moment to moment, on our handheld devices, but many don’t yet know how to select (or improve) what’s going on—moment to moment—in their minds.
Over a hundred years ago, Williams James (“the father of American psychology”) said: “Our greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another”. Learning how to recover the gift of your internal focus is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself because your internal focus is largely what determines your results in life.
Have you ever heard that “FEAR” is an acronym for “False Evidence Appearing Real”? That just means that the mind can’t tell the difference between that which is real and that which is vividly imagined. What have you learned to vividly imagine? And how often do you reinforce this? Remember: Energy flows where attention goes.
You use 6 primary tools to build your inner, subjective reality:
INNER FEELINGS (tactile, visceral, proprioceptive and emotional).
INNER SMELLS & TASTES.
You can interact with these 6 primary tools more and more consciously, or continue to be directed by them unconsciously (on autopilot) in the service of some pattern in your life. As you may have heard: If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.
Though much of science tends to discard or invalidate that which can’t be measured, you do have an inner, subjective reality 24/7/365—nonetheless. And YOU are the proof and measurer of that.
Consider that popular (unfortunately) imaginative exercise known as “anxiety”. It’s a “not so consciously directed” use of your wonderful imagination. Anxiety is a notification alert from your deeper self that you’re “focusing on what you DON’T want”. In other words, it’s the result of vividly imagining things not going well in your future.
It’s kind of like a negative faith which consists of inner pictures, inner sounds, inner feelings, self-talk and often even inner smells and tastes. So the good news is: if you can worry, you have a great imagination! The mechanism is working very well. But is it working for you, or against you? You possess a remarkable, inner technology. You just need to learn how to consciously steer it.
Simply put, one can learn to replace images that aren’t working so well with ones that work better. This isn’t new. Thousands of years ago, Patanjali, one of the sages of ancient India, wrote “where there are negative thoughts, let there be reflection to the contrary”.
And what would happen if you learned HOW to focus on new images? Perhaps your Reticular Activating System could receive some new fuel for a change. Because every act of creation begins with an image held strongly in the mind. What have you been creating?
The next time you find yourself focused on “what you don’t want”, you might choose to take a moment to simply experiment with the following:
1. ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU’RE FOCUSING ON WHAT YOU DON’T WANT
Take a few deep, relaxing breaths and acknowledge just what the negative inner pictures, sounds, feelings and self-talk are. Become conscious of what’s generating the feeling you don’t want. Then, briefly ask yourself if there’s any useful info to be gained from all that which could help motivate you to do something. If so, jot it down quickly and place it aside for now.
For example: You feel a little anxiety about a test you’re about to take for your career. You see yourself receiving a failing score, hear your friends consoling you, hear yourself telling yourself “Why bother even trying” and you feel a nervous sensation in your solar plexus region. The “useful info” you get from that is simply: I need to put in several more hours of study before the test.
2. GET CURIOUS ABOUT THE POSITIVE REPLACEMENT
So, you know what you don’t want. Now ask yourself “What, specifically, do I want?”. And fully consider that—realistically. One of the first principles of success is to specify your outcome.
For example: You want to receive a good score on the test and increase your earning potential.
3. BUILD THE POSITIVE REPLACEMENT (FOCUSING ON WHAT YOU WANT)
Now build the specific imagery for the positive replacement you discovered in Step 2. Immerse yourself in that outcome for a moment and experiment with adjusting the finer distinctions of all the imagery. See everything you’ll see. Hear everything you’ll hear (in your environment and your self-talk). Feel everything you’ll feel. You’re practicing the having of it, rather than the wanting of it. Enjoy it.
For example: You see yourself receiving a good grade on the test. You hear your friends congratulating you. You’re telling yourself “I did it!” and you feel a sense of accomplishment rising in your chest. You make the colors brighter, make the sounds a little louder and make that feeling in your chest radiate even more intensely.
And, next comes the crucial Step 4.
THE OUTER WORK:
4. TAKE ACTION!
For example: You schedule several hours of study (Tuesday from 9am-12pm and Wednesday from 2pm-5pm) and take action toward making your positive outcome happen. In the remaining days before the test, you continue to do Step 3 daily in a relaxed state (before you fall asleep at night and before you get up in the morning are good times).
This isn’t about wishful thinking or putting a “happy face band-aid” over things you’d rather not face in your life. This is about utilizing the fundamentals of change and doing some basic inner work on a regular basis.
Steps 1, 2 and 3 start to pave the way for moving toward what you want rather than continuing to spin your wheels in the inner lands of what you don’t want. Consider it a “mental rep”. If you want to change your body, you need to do more than one rep of an exercise at the gym, right? The same holds true for your mind. Forming new habits requires repetition.
Step 4 is about doing the necessary outer work that your outcome requires—but now it’s from a good frame of mind.
How you choose to respond to things in your life and the meaning you give to those things can lead to greater personal power—or not. Your inner focus determines your results. You can learn though suffering (popular) or learn through choice (not as trendy).
It’s important to understand that going from “creating negative states of mind through the unconscious use of your imagination” toward “creating positive states of mind through a more conscious direction of your imagination” is a learning process which varies from individual to individual. It’s all about your commitment to the process of learning something new. Without that commitment, you’ll go right back to your “regularly scheduled program”.
In my practice, rather than trying to fit clients and students into theories of human behavior, I teach them, experientially, how to recover their inner resources—and each one does it uniquely in and of themselves. Because getting “out of the box” and creating your future requires that you recover your choice, imagination and focus. It’s an inside job.
Long ago, you were handed a script to live out. You’ve been told by many (with good intentions, hopefully) what to focus on since you were a child. Your perceptions have been, to a large extent, “managed”. However, you are not that script. You’re the great learner who learned it. The question is: Are you interested in learning how to write your own script for a change?
Where is your focus?
© 2018 Jack van Landingham, Center for Advanced Life Skills