When I was in elementary school, every once in a while someone would run up and toss out a dare: “Don’t think about pink elephants.” Guess what? I spent the rest of the day thinking about…pink elephants. I couldn’t make myself stop. It’s one of those immutable laws of life: the thing you most try to avoid thinking about is the one your brain naturally focuses on.
Since then, I’ve learned how to get the pink elephants out of my head. I change focus. As soon as I consciously start thinking about something else, the pink elephants drop off my mind’s radar scope.
Marcus Buckingham’s book, Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently, talks a lot about focus. He offers practical suggestions on how to tilt your life to maximize your strengths and focus on the things you love.
But what about our weaknesses? We all have things we wish we could do better. Things we wish we didn’t do.
And then, of course, there are the people in our life who test our limits and drain our energy: be they bosses, co-workers, children or spouses. What do we do with those? We can’t—and often don’t really want to—get them out of our life permanently.
According to Buckingham, there, too, the answer lies in changing focus. Start putting your energy into building up the good things about yourself or that troublesome relationship, and the negatives will cease to be as important.
My friend Tammy has often said, “If you have a spotted dog and you start looking at the spots, after a while, all you see are the spots.” She’s right. If you only focus on the negative, on the “pink elephant” that’s making you crazy, pretty soon, that becomes the sum total of the relationship.
So turn it around. Focus on the positives, the strong points, the things you love and appreciate about this other person. Do that, and pretty soon those things that make you nuts will lose their power. They’ll probably never go away—sorry—but you won’t care as much, because your focus will be on the good stuff.
The same thing applies to our own weaknesses. Focus on your strengths, on the things that give you energy and make you feel strong, and those other things will cease to weigh you down.
Today I’m heading outside to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. I’m going to consciously think about the things I love about my life and my family and my job.
The rest will take care of itself.
What about you? How do you deal with your weaknesses–in yourself or your relationships? I’d love to hear your strategies.