Focus on what you want

Do you focus on what you want?  Or are you focusing on what you don’t want?

There’s a saying I regularly quote when I’m facilitating a workshop: What you pay attention to you get more of. What you pay attention to determines what you miss.

This is a simple and eloquent idea and yet unfortunately (and ironically) it’s one we frequently neglect.

What this saying tells us is that we can get much closer to the result we desire if we focus on what we want rather than on what we don’t want.

For instance, if we are going for an interview and we want to do really well, that is being poised and calm, answering the questions with clearly articulated and knowledgeable answers that reflect our experience and skills – then we need to have our attention on qualities such as poise, calm, focus and so on.

In contrast, if we keep thinking and internally chattering things like, “I can’t be nervous” or “I going to forget my examples”, or “I’m awful at interviews” then we can’t really be surprised if we bomb out (and then tell ourselves “See I really am bad at interviews”)

Sometimes I assist organisations to prepare their staff for community meetings where there is a possibility of friction and antagonism amongst the participants. These meetings are usually in an area of public policy debate where different stakeholders hold strong views and attend the meetings to advocate for their position. These meetings can be challenging for the staff especially if they are required to speak about the reasons for new, or revised policy, on behalf of the government agency they work for.

When I start working with the staff I sometimes find that their internal self talk is defensive and fearful. They are saying things like, “What will I do if it gets ugly” or “How can I manage these strong emotions?” These are perfectly understandable reactions. What is concerning though is if the staff continue to place their attention on all the potential problems.

What’s required is to begin focusing on how they can do well by thinking about their strengths and experience as well as the importance of doing a great job at helping community members express the views that are important to them. Generally speaking, these meetings are a healthy sign of a democracy, and the role of the staff running, or participating in them, is important.

So doing well can be rewarding in a number of ways. It builds self esteem for the staff when they remain responsive and positive and it helps others to speak well (and hopefully respectfully) for what they feel passionate about.

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Maryanne Martin