I attended a program a long time ago conducted by my friend Kichu Krishnan. And somewhere right in the beginning, he told all the participants, “Don’t think of an elephant!” And smilingly, he continued, “I said, please DO NOT think of a pink elephant!” And by now, I, along with all others, was smiling. And then he said for the third time, “I am requesting you again, NOT to think of a pink elephant!”
Maybe by now, as you read that, you also thought of an elephant, followed by an elephant that was pink in colour, and then a pink elephant seen with greater clarity and in greater detail!
And if you are amongst the people who say, “No, I didn’t think of the elephant. I thought of a cat” – This is really not quite possible, since the brain does not possess the ability to process a “negative.” The moment one hears “elephant” the brain processes it and brings that up. And then, as an afterthought, inserts the “Do not” and then one consciously chooses to think of something else.
“Say what one wants, not what one does not want.”
Help people act because they WANT to, rather than because they HAVE to!
So, the other message in this article is “Say what one wants, not what one does not want.” Whether it is of me, or of others, stating things in the positive, is very useful! Any message is more inspiring when it is stated in the positive. Negative messages, exhorting others, or making them feel fear, or less about themselves, and therefore to act, may work in the short term. For long term and lasting benefit, it is always more useful to state things in the positive and to help people feel better about themselves. Help people act because they WANT to, rather than because they HAVE to! Help people focus on what is useful for them rather than berating them, putting them down and the like.
And, this article is based on a fair amount of neuroscience and understanding what goes on inside the head and brain of an average human being. I stand on the shoulders of giants who have studied the human brain, how it works, and what happens as a result, and shared their knowledge. I have borrowed knowledge from various sources and use them in my regular work, and in articles such as this.
Focus, is what helps with a camera – whatever is focused on, gets captured as a picture. Similarly, whatever the brain focuses on, it brings into sharper clarity and to the forefront.
Let’s take a look at some dictionary meanings of the word “focus”
- the centre of interest or activity (noun)
- the state or quality of having or producing clear visual definition (noun)
- adapt to the prevailing level of light and become able to see clearly (verb)
- pay particular attention to (verb)
All of these are relevant and pertinent to the message. Focus in one’s life is also pertains to what transpires in one’s life including what they see with their eyes. For example, when someone is thinking of buying a vehicle, and they decide on a particular make or model or colour. And suddenly, one becomes aware that there are so many vehicles of that make, model or colour on the roads. Did the number of vehicles actually increase suddenly? Maybe it did, and it is more likely that since a decision was made, there is greater focus on that make, model or colour, and one notices them more.
What would you want instead?
During the course of working with people, across all levels of experience, expertise, education, and maturity, there is one thing I have noticed. When I ask my clients what they want, many start with a thesis presentation on what they DON’T want. I patiently listen to them, and then state, ‘You have detailed very clearly what you DON’T want. What do you want?” Some of them get it and smile and they make changes and say what they want. Some others stay in denial and say, “No, can you not understand? I don’t want………..” I ask them softly, “Alright. That’s what you don’t want. And what would you want instead?” This gets them thinking, and slowly, but surely, they get around to stating what they want. And this simple act helps them greatly in identifying what matters and to focus on those things.
“the path to hell is paved with good intentions!” One can choose to use these good intentions and ACT on them in an inspiring manner to ensure that the path leads to a better place at least for themselves!
I come across many instances of friends who are upset with many things that are happening in their lives – at work, at home, in their neighbourhood, in the city, in the state, in the country, and in the world. And they keep harping on the things that are not working. And many do this all the time – about politicians, state of affairs in a sport, and the like. And I see many identify and keep sharing their anger, angst, despair, and sorrow on these things – on social media, in person when they meet others, and so on. And these people are probably focusing on all the things that are not working. And they are getting more of that. It might be more useful for them to choose to look INSTEAD at what IS working and is a cause for cheer. Of course, if there is a situation that needs to be made better, then one can CHOOSE TO DO everything they can to bring about that change. As the popular saying goes, “the path to hell is paved with good intentions!” One can choose to use these good intentions and ACT on them in an inspiring manner to ensure that the path leads to a better place at least for themselves!
The fact is, that I can work ONLY on my behaviours. I am actively choosing to say ONLY my behaviours (and not thoughts). And to change, requires awareness of the behaviour, and the underlying thought that initiated the behaviour. So, when I start becoming aware of the behaviour, and introspecting on the thought process, and exercise choice, my behaviour might actually undergo a change. Whilst thinking and introspecting, it might also be useful to consider multiple perspectives, and not only my own. Whether the change is for the better, is based on perspective and circumstances.
So, given that I cannot change anyone’s thinking or behaviour, the best I can do is to share my learning and growth process. Maybe it will resonate with some and help them as well. And maybe it won’t. And I ought to at least do my bit in terms of putting my thoughts out there. And that exactly is the reason for these articles.
Another disclaimer, I am working on these, and making progress. The lower levels of consciousness are personified by a belief that I actually matter and that I make a difference to others – which is where I am now. However, I have not achieved the higher level of maturity and consciousness where I don’t care whether another is inspired or not by what I think, say or do, and only to focus on my growth. The higher level of consciousness is not being selfish at all, and comes with a deep, mindful and evolved understanding and acceptance of the fact that I CAN ONLY FOCUS ON MY OWN GROWTH.
Back to the original thought on FOCUS, I used to be very upset with road users in Bangalore. I was very upset when I saw people not following the rules, driving or riding on the wrong side of the road, breaking traffic signals, and the like. A disclaimer right away, I am not 100% alright in this regard yet and the good thing is I am aware. And with awareness has come some growth and benefit. When I became aware, I started changing my focus to finding people who followed the rules, were considerate to other road users, and the like. Initially, it was difficult to find many, and with greater awareness and focus, I became aware that the majority of the people were law abiding, considerate and conscientious persons. This does not mean that the traffic situation in Bangalore is any better! However, it does mean that I am not AS upset when I am using the road. And this came about by a simple change in focus. (Those who travel with me while I am driving MIGHT have a different view, and that is based on what THEY focus on. 🙂 )
To me, focus in one’s life is like a sieve or filter. Whichever filter I use, that alone I notice. If there are habits or behaviours of others that cause me to be upset, then it is likely that I notice only those.And anything that upsets me, is reflective of something that is inside of me that needs to be addressed. More on this later, in another article. For MY own happiness, it might be useful for me to focus on the person’s other habits and good traits that are useful.
Also, as a template, I am now choosing to include a table which includes some situations that these lessons could be used in. This comes because many people who have read my earlier articles have asked me for examples and practical applications. So, as a first attempt, here goes. Some might be relevant to you, and some might not. I am writing these from MY experiences and perspective. Please choose to accept or discard as per your perspectives.
(Items in the table below are not being given as a formula – these are related to neurological states, and dependent on multiple variables in terms of people, emotions, experiences etc. So, please read these in conjunction with other aspects that need to be considered. It is NOT a “one size fits all” and entirely dependent on individual situations. The overarching concept to be kept in mind is the concept that “I am responsible for my upsets – people, situations, circumstances, events do not upset me!”)
A picture is also enclosed for those of you who might read this on a mobile device. For a clearer picture, you could access this article on a PC and be able to read better.
|At home||A habit, behaviour or some such thing from another which tends to be not to my liking||I choose to look at this behaviour and choose to be upset (Irritated, angry, sad, upset, worried etc.) Sometimes, the question in my mind is, “Why can’t this person understand that this behaviour is not useful?||I can CHOOSE to look for all the good in them. This enables me to look at them with greater compassion, and in the end, helps me convey my thoughts in an inspiring manner.|
|At work||Someone who is perceived by me as being selfish, unhelpful, and uncaring||Start doubting the intention of the person; label them based on MY perception. Be upset, irritated, angry, sad etc.||Choose to focus on the times they ARE helpful. Choose to look at the good traits that they possess.|
|In society||People not followin
g rules, being inconsiderate etc.
|Get irritated, angry, upset with their behaviour.||Choose to focus on and look for those who FOLLOW the rules, are considerate,|
|With Self||Self talk, thinking, putting oneself down, using phrases such as “I am….”||Adopt a certain way of thinking and labeling oneself and being resigned to not changing and placing the cause outside of self||Choose to focus on my good points; choose to identify times when this was different.|
|With friends||A thought or a belief based on data that the friend has a certain way of thinking, or acting||This belief colours my thinking that they are biased, unreasonable and the like. This then affects my relationship.||Choose to focus on the “reasons” they might be saying or doing something. This helps me go one step below, and understand their perspective. This might help me respond, than react.|
There is much more on this subject that can be written. In the interests of making it an appropriate length to read with interest, I choose to stop here.
I wish you the greatest health, happiness, peace, love and joy! May we all focus on the positives in life, and in others. Stay smiling, stay happy, stay the beautiful human you are! And yes, THANKS MUCH for taking the time and reading this. And your feedback and inputs are most useful an I am grateful for them. Thanks much!