Over the last few days, I've heard so many people comment that they don't want 2022 to be as bad as 2021, or that they don't want to 'another year like last year'. But we got through last year and we learnt stuff along the way, didn't we?
I had a client session yesterday afternoon where she was lamenting that she was lonely and had really struggled through a very unpleasant break up over the past year where she constantly worried over the mental health of her child who felt 'split down the middle' and who was also moving on to secondary school.
When we turned our attention to what had gone well and what she'd learnt along the way, she realised that her daughter had actually settled in really well to her new school and her new life and that instead of thinking of her 'split' between the two of them, she was getting the best of both of them and enjoying quality time with each parent in a relaxed atmosphere.
Also, she had, for the first time since her twenties, created a new home for herself, managed her finances, organised her bills and her daughter's school arrangements, and kept her job despite feeling that her world was torn apart.
Thirdly, despite feeling alone and sad, unwanted and a failure, she'd eaten healthily and not been tempted with alcohol, dating or seeking other comforts. She'd used this time to heal herself and figure out what she wanted now in her new life. She was running, doing yoga and meditating and finding ways to cope with all the changes as well as reach out for new activities such as joining a walking group.
So why am I telling you this?
You also may have had a rubbish year and may be thinking back on everything that went wrong for you and as you saw in the New Year, perhaps you were saying that you didn't want another year like 2021 but I urge you to focus instead on
* what went well last year
* what you've learnt
* what challenges you overcame
* what strength you found
* what new beliefs you created about yourself
Where you put your attention is what you get more of. What you expect - you get. When you focus on what you don't want, you miss what you do want because you aren't paying it any attention.
Have you heard the expression “Don’t think about pink elephants!” What do we find ourselves doing? Thinking about pink elephants of course! In order to make sense of the instruction, we first have to get a picture in our head of a pink elephant. So we have now done exactly what we have been told not to do even though it wasn’t our intention. That’s how negative goals work too. As we focus on what we don’t want, inadvertently we are actually getting it.
Here are a few quotes that explain how this works.
“In order to say no to something, your brain must first make an image of the thing you don’t want and then negate it. The problem is that at this point you’re already heading in the wrong direction.” Richard Bandler
“If you don’t know where you’re going, you will probably end up somewhere else.” Lawrence J Peter
“Believe you can and you’re half way there.” Theodore Roosevelt
“If you can dream it you can do it.” Walt Disney
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Mark Twain
Thinking about what you don’t want is problem thinking whereas thinking about what you do want is outcome thinking. Problem thinking arises when we focus on the thing that’s happening now which is of course the thing we don’t want. So the only way we will change and experience more of what we do want is to move away from the present problem state and towards the compelling outcome.
There are two directions in life, forwards and backwards, towards and away from. When Bandler and Grinder developed NLP back in the 60s they found as they studied successful people that they were all ‘towards’ orientated. They didn’t waste their time and energy on what they didn’t want but focused on getting what they did want.
‘Away from’ thinking focuses the mind on the present unsatisfactory situation that they want to change. When we try to get our brain to focus on what it doesn’t want, it gets confused. Think about some of these goals, have you ever had goals like these?
“I want to give up smoking”.
“I must get rid of all the junk in this room.”
“I’ve got to lose weight.”
“I don’t want to come last.”
“I hope I don’t fail.”
“I better not catch his cold.”
“I don’t want to be late.”
Have you worded your New Year resolution as something you're going to 'try' and do?
The word ‘try’ is the enemy of successful goal setting. It is simply a variation on the problem state thinking. How many times do you hear people state their goal in this way “I’m trying to lose weight” or “I’m trying to leave my boring job”, “I’m trying to stop shouting at the kids.”
The word ‘trying’ implies that you doubt whether you’ll be successful but nevertheless you’re going to put it out there as a goal. However, by using the word ‘try’, no-one is convinced you mean it (including your mind) so you won’t get any support. How hard are you trying, really? It sounds as if this is a goal that you think you ought to have because someone else has suggested it, or you have read a book or magazine article that recommends it so you’re going to give it a ‘try.
Instead, remove the word ‘try’ and replace it with the belief that it is important, it is something you do want to do and start picturing how success would look. If when you do this, it isn’t that compelling then change your goal to one that is.
Trying does not form any part of goal setting and doesn’t belong there. Instead word your goal in the positive as something that you will be or get and take responsibility for achieving it. So how about thinking again about what you want to attract in 2022?
Visualise it - see yourself having achieved it by imagining it's now New Year's Eve 2022. Take yourself there and write a note to yourself about how well you've done, comment on all you've achieved and what you've ticked off from your resolutions on that list.
A personal tip from me. I love to record each day what's gone well, what I'm grateful for and what has brought me joy. I give my teen clients one of these journals and they have told me what a difference it makes.
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Focusing on what we do want rather than on what we don’t want is a matter of thinking first what we really want, imagining what it will be like and taking it on as our identity. This moves us from a state of problem thinking where the focus is on what we don’t want and moves us along the road towards what we do want which is our compelling vision for ourselves.