I knew a 30-year-old man I’ll call George, who had a drinking and driving problem, like quite a few I’ve met in my recovery mentoring work. George stayed late and had far too much to drink at the pub.
However, the three-kilometre road home was straight and flat with no traffic at that time of night, so he decided to drive. There were no houses on that rural stretch and only one tree.
As he drove home he kept reminding himself that he must not run into that tree. You can guess the rest: he lost control and crashed into the only tree on his route.
George wanted to get home safely but he had focused on and what he didn’t want…and got it.
You’ve been there; I’ve been there. When I think about not eating the chocolate in the cupboard, I am more likely to indulge than if I focus on the tasks of productive and healthy living.
If you have to take regular medication, you are much more likely to remember it if you focus on building it into your daily routine, rather than on trying not to forget it. What you focus on gets planted in your subconscious.
If you find yourself focusing on what you don’t want, whether it be lack of money, loss of friends, illness or getting too fat, don’t be too hard on yourself.
You are bombarded daily with negative media stories and advice telling you what not to do and what disasters may follow if you ignore the advice.
The basic form of the advice is this: don’t (eat, breathe, drink, go, do) or you’ll (get cancer, asthma, ulcers, go to jail, become a drunk). A somewhat earlier version of focusing on the negative appeared with the “thou shalt nots” in the Ten Commandments.
Like most, you probably want to be a good person and live a good life. Unfortunately, if you focus on all the things you don’t want or shouldn’t do, life becomes very constricted.
You may be seen by others as a good person, but you know deep down you couldn’t possibly meet the requirements.
By focusing on what you don’t want, what you do want remains elusive and never seems to materialize.
I invite you to reflect on how much attention you pay to what you don’t want or shouldn’t do. Then for each of those things reflect on its opposite, what you do want or could do. Make this a habit. It can be very freeing and life enhancing.
It’s a recipe for living a more expanded life and leaving a more appreciated emotional legacy.
Dr. Neill is a Central-Island Registered Psychologist. You can reach him for an appointment at 250-752-8684 or through his website www.neillneill.com/contact.