If you read any personal development advice, you’ll rather quickly come across the idea that it’s important to focus on positive aspects of life. Rather than dwelling on what could be better or what you feel you should be doing, you’re encouraged to pay attention to the areas which are already going well.
The concept makes sense: by concentrating on what’s good, we’re likely to be encouraged and motivated, and we’ll automatically start looking for ways to get more of the same. The problem, though, is how to focus on what’s positive in our lives – when it’s easy to dwell on mistakes and regrets.
These are four simple techniques to try:
Regular Gratitude Journal
I’ve got to confess, there’s something about constant “be grateful” advice that gets on my nerves a bit. Sometimes I’m just not feeling in a very grateful mood, or the whole idea can seem a bit hokey. But when I read in Richard Wiseman’s 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot that scientific studies have shown that gratitude really does make you happier, I decided I needed to take it a bit more seriously.
Ideally, you’ll spend a couple of minutes each evening jotting down a short list of things which you’re grateful for. It could be anything from a really good cup of coffee that morning to hearing your child say “I love you.”
But don’t ditch this one if a daily effort is too much – once or twice a week will still be a huge help.
Monthly Achievement Log
Over the past three years, I’ve been spending just five – ten minutes each month writing down the things which I’ve achieved. They don’t have to be a big deal: anything new, like “went ski-ing for the first time” or any particular milestones, like “finished draft one of my novel” go into the book.
This has been a great habit because it encourages you to try new things, and it also helps you look back and see what you’ve achieved. Give it a go, especially in months where you feel you haven’t accomplished much – there’ll always be more than you think!
Focus on Effort
From childhood, we’re used to being graded on our work, and praised (or not!) for the results we get. Although celebrating your achievements is definitely part of being positive, it’s also important to acknowledge effort.
If you tried hard at something, regardless of whether you fully succeeded or not, that’s important. Rather than focusing entirely on the results which you get, look at the effort you put in. Maybe you’re trying to lose weight: the scales didn’t budge this week, but you went out jogging three times. In the long run, building that consistent habit is more important than minor fluctuations in your weight.
Say “Thank You”
It costs nothing at all to say “thank you” – but it can really brighten up someone’s day. It makes you feel good, too, to focus on being pleased with someone (rather than criticizing or nagging them). Next time your partner cooks dinner, or your children tidy up their toys, say a simple “thank you”.
This is really powerful in the workplace, too; it helps you appreciate your colleagues or employees more, and it can be very motivating to them too – making the office a much more positive place to be.
What tips do you have on focusing on the positive aspects of life, rather than getting bogged down worrying about the negative ones?