Why SHOULD You Focus on the Positive?
I know that I have been guilty of preaching about how you can focus on the positive, assuming that that is something that you want to do. Not convinced? I understand. Let’s talk about that.
I’m going to surprise you here. What I want to discuss is not research about positivity, but about how focus works. One of the principles of Appreciative Inquiry is the Poetic Principle, which suggests that what we choose to focus on will grow. That of course, is exactly why I advocate focusing on the positive. If positivity is good for you, (and research suggests that it is) what could be better than making it grow?
Whenever our attention is drawn to something, psychologists have found, that thing feels important, in ways that we don’t consciously sense. It’s a quirk of our brains. One way to think about it is to visualize the design of some virtual graphical interfaces: When you scroll over icons on a screen, the one under your cursor enlarges to look bigger than the others.
In the same way, when you think about something positive, the accidental meeting of someone important in the coffee shop, for example, its consequence grows. You begin thinking about how fortunate you were to run into that person and you probably make some inferences about that, such as: Whenever I get motivated to get out of my office something good happens. And you decide: I am going to get out of the office at least once a day and will always be prepared with my business cards. Guess what? Because you are expecting to have happenstance meetings and are subconsciously on the look-out for those opportunities, you do!
Why does it work that way? Part of the answer may lie in the mechanics of attention. Your attention acts like searchlights in the night sky. Your interest is magnetically pulled to the vortex of the lights– you probably can’t resist shifting your attention to those search lights, even if you wanted to, and a strong impression is made on your thoughts and feelings. Attention evolved so that we could focus on important things. We’re programmed to think that whatever we’ve focused on must be a big deal.
It is true, that not everything we give attention to is important, but ahem… I’m not going to go into that here. But what is also true, is that we can give our attention to things that we want to be more important. That is why the WWW list developed by Martin Seligman may be so useful in helping you to develop more positivity in your life.
We are all bombarded by negativity every day by the media. The front page lands on our doorstep first thing in the morning and more bad news screams out at us when we boot up our home pages. We take a break and inevitably scan over the headlines, as if we needed more bad news.
If you find yourself overwhelmed by the negativity of the media, get a positivity fix by visiting www.DailyGood.org. The volunteer-run site highlights inspirational stories of everyday heroes and celebrities who are making a difference in the world. You will find that it is a lightening counterbalance to the heaviness of the headlines.
The bottom line? Focus on the positive and it will grow! What do you think about the mechanics of attention and how focusing on the positive can make it grow?
If you would like to discuss how coaching might support you in developing focus, please call me for a free complimentary session at 805.448.7681 or schedule a session using my on-line calendar.
p.s. I always am interested in what you think about these discussions. Please post your thoughts on the blog…your constructive criticism and support is appreciated!
Dr. Lynn K. Jones, Certified Personal and Executive Coach
Your MOJO Maven
Dr. Lynn K. Jones is a Certified Personal and Executive Coach based in Santa Barbara, California and a sought after coach and consultant for organizations and individuals across the US. Her doctoral work completed at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University concerned organizational culture; she coaches, consults and trains organizations on what they need to do to create organizational cultures that are aligned with their vision and values using a process of Appreciative Inquiry. She coaches individuals on achieving their reflected best selves. An MSW@USC faculty member, Dr. Lynn K. Jones, MSW, DSW, CSWM, teaches Human Behavior and Social Environment.