You become a true master of your life when you learn how to master your focus—where your attention goes.
This morning, after back surgery nearly a year ago, one of my neighborhood friends finally took his first few unassisted steps. His doctor says he should be back on his feet full-time in about two months; he just needs to build up the muscle in his legs again. When I asked my friend what he’s looking forward to most about being back on his feet, he said, “Long walks with my wife.”
His response resonated deeply with me. It’s such a strong reminder that the simple things are often the most important, and that we sometimes let stifling thoughts and ineffective habits get in our way of being happy and productive.
Which is why it’s time to focus less on…
1. All the little distractions.
Focus on the activities and people that make you happy, and filter out the avoidable opposites. Truth be told, we often make our lives complicated when it’s really quite simple: Find what it is that makes you happy and spend more time doing it. Find who it is that makes you smile and spend more time with them.
Living your dream is really just a matter of proper lifestyle alignment. It’s about being true to yourself, and realizing that where you are at any given moment is exactly where you want to be. Thus, happiness and success in life is simply the gratifying combination of liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking who you do it with.
2. Negativity and those who create it.
When other people treat you poorly, keep being you. Don’t ever let someone else’s bitterness change the person you are. Don’t let the silly little dramas of each day get you down either. Stay positive when negativity surrounds you. Keep calm and carry on. It takes one positive thought to overpower an entire array of negative thoughts. People who are able to find the one positive point in negative situations are the ones who never give up.
3. Insensitive thoughts.
Always be kinder than necessary. What goes around comes around. No one has ever made themselves strong by showing how small someone else is. Whatever can be done, can be done more effectively when you add kindness. Whatever words are spoken, will always be more compelling when expressed with kindness.
The kind deeds you exert in just one moment can have a positive impact that lasts a lifetime. Your days will be brighter and your years fuller when you add kindness to your purpose. Choose to be kind every day, and you’re truly choosing to live in a better world.
4. The belief that you’re too flawed.
Accept your humanness. You can stop pretending. It feels good to own up to stuff… to admit that you’re human—a work in progress—a beautiful mess. Wanting to be someone or something else is a waste of your beauty. You’re fine. If you feel like you aren’t, you’re blowing things out of proportion. Having a little anxiety is fine. Being a little fearful is fine. Your secrets are fine. You’re a good person. You’re intelligent. You’re fine just the way you are. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Self-Love” chapter of the NEW edition of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
5. Your desire to win everyone’s approval.
Your ideas and choices don’t have to be on everyone’s “approved” list. Regardless of the opinions of others, at the end of the day the only reflection staring back at you in the mirror is your own. Make sure you’re proud of who that person is. Approach others with the belief that you’re a good person, whether they respond positively or not. It’s normal to want people to like you, but it becomes a self-imposed burden when too much of your behavior is explicitly designed to constantly reassure you of their approval.
6. The little expectations clouding your mind.
Whatever you’re waiting for—peace of mind, contentment, grace, an inner awareness of abundance—it will surely come to you, but only when you’re ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart. So be as grateful as possible, for small things, not just for big things—for the simple act of breathing, the time together, the conversations, etc. Every moment counts. Every second matters. Whatever is given is a gift. Make the most of it.
7. What you don’t have, and may never have.
Focus on the resources you do have access to. It all begins and ends in your mind. What you give power to has power over you, if you allow it. Too many of us are hung up on what we don’t have, can’t have, or won’t ever have. We spend too much energy being down, when we could use that same energy—if not less of it—doing, or at least trying to do, some of the things we really want to do. So focus on the opportunities you DO have and exploit the resources you DO have access to.
8. All that stuff for sale you don’t need.
Too many people buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t know. Don’t be one of them. Stop buying stuff on impulse! Avoid the mall! The mall is not a source of entertainment. It’s a source of personal debt. There’s no reason to tease yourself by staring at a bunch of brand new junk you don’t need. And as you know, the novelty of a new purchase wears thin long before the credit card bill arrives.
So as I’ve said before, live a comfortable life, not a wasteful one. Do not spend to entertain yourself or impress others. Do not fool yourself into thinking wealth is measured in material objects. Manage your money wisely so your money does not manage you.
9. Old, comfortable routines.
Remember, the way you’ve always done it isn’t the only way. It’s unlikely that one of the things you’ll regret when you’re 80 is not having consumed enough beer in your 20s, or not having bought enough $9 lattes in your 30s, or not having frequented the same chain restaurants for your entire 40s, etc. But the regret of missing out on opportunities is a real, toxic feeling. You’ve figured out drinking and going out. You’ve had enough lattes. You know what the hamburger at Applebee’s tastes like. It’s time to figure something else out. Every corner you turn or street you walk down has a new experience waiting for you. You just have to see the opportunity and be adventurous enough to run with it.
10. Senseless busyness.
Incessant busyness is often a sign of ineffectiveness and laziness. Because it’s easy to be busy—just partake in a bunch of random activities that drains all your time. Doing so justifies never having enough time to clean, cook for yourself, go out with friends, meet new people, etc. Right? Wrong. Don’t just get things done; get the right things done. Results are always more important than the time it takes to achieve them.
11. Illusions of safety.
You have to take risks. You will only realize the full potential of your life when you allow the unexpected to happen. Living itself is risky business. Every decision, every interaction, every step, every time you get out of bed in the morning, you take a risk. To truly live is to know you’re getting up and taking that risk. To not get out of bed, clutching to illusions of safety, is to die slowly without ever having truly lived. Be a little risky and realize the full potential of your life.
12. Fear of defeat.
A fear of being defeated is what warrants your defeat. A fear of not being good enough is what guarantees that you never will be. If you never pick up that keyboard, or pencil, or paintbrush, or whatever instrument you use to craft your work, because you’re afraid that someone else might do it better than you, your prediction will automatically come true.
Remember, defeat is not the worst of failures. Not having tried at all is as bad as it gets. And as far as failure itself is concerned, you’re not obligated to succeed or fail. You’re obligated to keep trying—to do the best you can do every day. That’s all. And you’re always good enough to do that.
13. The dream that everything should be easy.
The ones who fall and get up are so much stronger than the ones who never fell. Often it’s the deepest pain that empowers human beings to rise and grow into their highest selves. The ones who win the race in the long run are usually not the quickest or slickest, but the ones who have endured the most.
14. The way things were supposed to be.
Life is about laughing and learning through good times and bad. It’s about growing through whatever comes your way and looking back with a smile. You’re stronger because of the hard times, wiser because of your mistakes, and happier because you have known sadness. The same is true for everyone else.
So stay strong. Even when it feels like everything is falling apart, you can either let it define you, destroy you, or let it strengthen you. Things change for the better. Just believe and roll with it. It won’t always be easy, but it will be worth it in the end. When you finally let go of the past and what did or didn’t happen, something better comes along. Oftentimes what you’re looking for comes when you’re not looking at all.
15. The excuses for why you haven’t started.
The feeling you get from taking the first step is far better than the feeling you get from sitting around thinking about it. So get up and get moving. Take the first step this year—just one small step forward. The greatest miracle of your success will not be that you finished, it will be that you had the courage to begin.
The future starts TODAY, not tomorrow.
(Note: Angel and I customize and implement all of the aforementioned points with our students in the Getting Back to Happy Course & Coaching.)
The floor is yours…
What do you need to focus less on today? What’s one idea or habit that’s keeping you stuck?
Share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment below.
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