…and vice versa.
Recently, I was dining with two friends who, like me, want to get in better shape and lose weight. We weren’t talking about weight loss specifically, but when our meal arrived, Amy made several comments on what she can’t eat, what she wants but gave up, and even what exercising she wants to do but can’t. She was focusing on the negative, on her can’ts. This is typical for Amy; she focuses on the negative in most situations.
This time, it struck me deeply. My other friend Mary and I focus on the positive; we talk about the good foods we’re eating, how much healthier we feel, and how much fun we have exercising. We chatter excitedly about our progress and our goals and what keeps us motivated. We rarely complain, and when we do, we end on a positive note to remind ourselves that we’re doing what we most want to be doing.
The results are clear: Mary and I are losing weight and gaining tone and health. We’re enjoying the journey, making progress, and feeling good and happy.
Amy is not making progress. She hasn’t set goals and isn’t reaching toward them. She’s focusing on what she’s missing rather than on what she’s gaining, and that makes all the difference.
Focusing on the positive brings the positive to you.
When I complain about my knee aching, it aches sharply and my attention is captured. When I complain about my shoulder, it takes a monumental effort to shift my focus to something else. When I complain about how hard it is to exercise, I lose the desire to exercise, making it far more difficult to get up and do. When I complain about all the food I’ve given up, I miss it and crave it, and don’t want to eat healthier things.
When I take care of my knee and shoulder, they ache less and demand less of my attention. When I focus on how good I feel during and after an exercise session, I get excited about it and enjoy it fully. When I talk about all the good foods I eat now and how they make me feel, I crave and anticipate them, and enjoy eating them.
However, I used to be Amy:
“I have this health problem, I can’t get in shape!” “I can’t get healthy or thinner; my genetics make me heavy!” “I can’t exercise; I’m injured!” “I can’t be vegan! I need to eat cheese!”
That was me. I spent 15 years there; I focused on the negative to the eclipse of positivity. Trapped in victim mentality, I lost sight of my ability to change my focus and remained stuck in that place of can’ts and give ups and missing outs. I spent 15 years making excuses, blaming, complaining, avoiding, and putting off. I spent 15 years blind to personal responsibility.
It took a lot of change to bring me to a place where I usually focus on the positive. The biggest step in my process was also the simplest: saying “That makes me happy!” whenever something makes me happy. I started saying it because Pace said it, and I found that it made me feel good when I heard it. I tried saying it, a few times at first, and I found that it helped me remember the good things that happened in my day more clearly. It gave me positive things to focus on and talk about. I liked having positive things to share with Pace; she responded far more positively to happy events than to depressing ones, and our conversations grew longer and our connection deeper.
More than that, though, was my internal state. I felt better. I felt happier. I started smiling and whistling and humming. I would say “That makes me happy!” to everyone who did something that brought me any measure of joy: clerks, cashiers, co-workers, friends, family, strangers, waiters. Anyone! And I found that, by sharing the joy they’d given me, they felt happier too! It’s a positive upwards spiral!
Once I felt that joy, once I realized how that one little thing brought such big happiness, I wanted more. I started on a path of self-work and self-discovery, shaking myself out of the victim mentality that’s so common in our society. I took responsibility for myself, my actions, my thoughts, and even my feelings. I shifted my focus from negative to positive. I’m gentle with myself when I fall back, but don’t tolerate it for too long. When I get injured, I take care of myself and work with my body instead of letting it incapacitate me. I changed my habits. I changed my perspective. It hasn’t been an easy journey, but it’s certainly been rewarding and life-changing!
If you are how I used to be, like Amy is, if you feel excuses forming or live in a world of can’ts, try starting with something small. Make a little change, take a little step. Try focusing on the positive once or twice a day, and write it down or talk about it. See how it feels, and see if you want more.
It’s all in how you look at it.