Stop Looking for Evidence of What You Don’t Want
You know that uneasy feeling you get when you know you’re doing something that’s not good for you … but you keep doing it anyway?
Maybe you’re staying in a job or a relationship that isn’t really working, or you keep making excuses for why you don’t have time to go to the gym. Whatever’s causing you to be out-of-alignment, it gives you that awful, knot-in-your-stomach, uncomfortable-in-your-own-skin, shifty kind of feeling.
I’ve been feeling that way a bit lately.
As a coach who’s trained to intuitively pick up on these inconsistencies in other people, it’s particularly uncomfortable to get this feeling myself. I realized I haven’t been the best at walking my own talk in one major way the past couple of months, so I’m outing myself in the name of getting back on track.
I’m forever telling my clients to pay less attention to what they don’t want, and to focus more on what they do want. In other words, stop complaining about what’s not working and start noticing and appreciating what is working.
Why? Because what you pay attention to has a huge impact on what you experience.
When I follow my own advice about this, my life starts to feel different — better, easier, lighter, more fun — almost immediately.
But I’m only human, which means sometimes I’m going to slip back into old bad habits. And this summer, since I’ve been distracted by some frustrating health issues, I’ve found myself giving more of my attention than usual on the things I don’t want.
- I’ve been more annoyed about traffic.
- I’ve fallen into the trap of pointlessly arguing about politics.
- I’ve let my worries take me into a mental downward spiral.
- I’ve had the recurring thought, “Why does this have to be so hard?”
- I’ve complained about the weather, my busy schedule, the healthcare industry, the state of our country (and the world at large), and on and on.
I’ll catch myself in the act of doing one of these things, and yet I can’t always seem to stop myself. Once you start complaining or arguing about one thing, you tend to find more and more things to complain and argue about … and it’s tough to stop that momentum once it’s going.
Every time I do it, though, I get that awful out-of-alignment feeling in my gut because I know this isn’t me. So I’ve been consciously working on following my own advice more lately, and I have to say … it’s making all the difference.
THE LUCKY LOG
I was coaching a client a few months back named Natalia, and in one of our sessions, she expressed how badly she wanted to start her own business. She excitedly told me about all of the entrepreneurial ideas she had.
After a while, however, she stopped herself. “I don’t think any of them will work, though. I’m just really unlucky, so whenever something starts to go my way, something usually happens and screws it all up.”
When I asked her what made her think she was so unlucky, she immediately listed off example after example of how things never work out for her. Then when I asked her to give me some examples of times when she did feel lucky and when things did go her way … the phone got very quiet.
So I issued her a homework assignment. For one week, she had to keep a “Lucky Log” — a running list of any “lucky” experience, no matter how minor, that made her feel like things were working out in her favor.
In our next session, she told me the first few days of the challenge were really hard. It felt like she had nothing to add to her list. But as the week went on, it got easier for her to collect more and more evidence that things actually work out well for her quite often.
She was amazed. “I never noticed these things before! I’ve been feeling so lucky and grateful this week. The weird thing is, nothing has actually changed! I’m just seeing things differently.”
IT JUST TAKES A SHIFT OF ATTENTION
Focusing on what you don’t want not only doesn’t feel good, it actually rewires your brain to keep paying more and more attention to negative things. It’s like you start collecting “proof” that all of your negative beliefs — about yourself, your job, other people, the world — are true, and you become blind to experiences that go against those beliefs.
It’s human nature to want to be right, so you’ll unconsciously collect evidence that your beliefs are true … even if you don’t actually want them to be true!
If you believe that no one in your industry gets paid well, you’ll become hyper-aware of anyone in your line of work complaining about not having enough money.
If you believe that there are no good men/women out there, you’ll feel validated in that belief every time you go on a bad date or hear about a friend’s breakup.
If you believe you’re not good at your job, you’ll take every bit of constructive feedback or instruction as proof that you don’t know what you’re doing.
Sure, you could continue to believe these things and keep collecting evidence that they’re “true,” but how does that serve you?
The truth is, you can collect evidence to support any belief you want. So if these beliefs are making you feel miserable and attracting more miserable things into your life, then why keep building a case for them?
What if, instead of collecting proof of what you don’t want, you started collecting proof of what you do want to be true? What if you tried your own version of Natalia’s “Lucky Log”?
BUILDING A CASE FOR WHAT YOU WANT
Think of yourself like an attorney, preparing for a big court case. Your goal is to collect as much evidence as possible so that you can present the best, most solid case for what you want to believe.
For example, I personally want to start collecting proof that…
- Life is working out in my favor.
- My body is fantastic at healing itself.
- I easily magnetize awesome people and experiences into my life.
- Good things happen to me all the time.
- There is beauty all around me.
- I bounce back from challenges quickly and easily.
- People are generally kind and friendly.
Imagine if you decided to collect evidence that these beliefs were true, instead of the ones you’ve been (consciously or unconsciously) trying to prove.
You’d find a whole lot less to complain about, that’s for sure. And you’d also attract more and more things into your life to feel appreciative of.
In order to jumpstart me back into appreciation mode, I’m issuing myself the following challenge: For one week, starting today, I’m going to …
- Give up complaining entirely. Not a single complaint allowed for a solid week!
- Start a written list where I collect proof of my new-and-improved list of beliefs, and feel appreciation for each example as I add it to the list.
I think it would be awesome for a bunch of us to take on this challenge together over the next week. If you’re willing to do this with me, leave me a comment to let me know you’re in!
This post was originally published on Clarity on Fire.