When I tell my patients to focus on solutions rather than problems, it’s not because I think there’s anything magical about positive thinking. In fact, quite the opposite. 

I don’t think there’s magic in “thinking” at all. I think there’s magic in doing. I’m a believer in works, not just faith. 

No, my admonition to focus on solutions rather than problems is a very practical consideration: we only have so much energy. 

We only have so much focus. 

Lord knows we only have so much time. (Time is probably the most finite, but most important, resource that we have, that most people don’t take seriously as a resource.) 

Simply put, time we spend worrying or focused on how much things such is time we’re never getting back. It’s not time that is productive, and— most importantly— it’s time that is literally taken away from the time (and the focus, and the energy) we have to spend on solutions. 

I do not think that just by imagining and hoping and wishing for solutions, they will appear. 

I do think, however, that focusing on solutions makes us far more aware of various options than we would otherwise be. 

I do think that focusing on solutions orients us in a direction that is entirely more productive than focusing on problems. 

I do think that focusing on solutions reinforces a set of beliefs about the world that is more productive than focusing on problems— notably, that problems in fact HAVE solutions, and those solutions are within our grasp. 

It’s not about magic. 

It’s not about the “law of attraction.” 

It’s a simple matter of prioritizing how we’re going to invest our resources intelligently. 

Our ability to design a life, achieve goals, live our values, and create our identities depends largely on our ability and willingness to make choices and set priorities. 

Even in our darkest, most vulnerable moments, we STILL have the opportunity— and the obligation— to make choices and set priorities, most importantly about how we’re going to nurture and use the resources we have available to us. 

When we’re down and out, we often forget that we have resources. 

When we’re broke, we tend to think that since we lack financial resources, our other resources don’t “count.” 

When we’re in pain, our resources of attention and energy are limited; and we thus have a tendency to assume that our other resources don’t “count.” 

Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s when we’re short on resources that how we prioritize and invest our remaining resources becomes of the utmost importance. 

No matter how tired you are, you still have to decide where to put your attention. 

No matter how crunched for time you are, you still have to decide how to spend the time you DO have available. 

No matter how broke you are, you still have to decide how to spend the money you DO have. 

What’s more: no matter how scarce your resources are, you’re STILL capable of making conscious, intelligent, value-driven decisions about your resources. 

I love when some people maintain that other people who are down on their luck are somehow incapable of making good decisions about their remaining resources. How incredibly patronizing is that? 

You may not be able to afford the food that would constitute a perfect diet; however, you’re quite capable of making intelligent decisions with the money and food you DO have. 

You may not be able to read entire books at a time; however, your’e quite capable of making intelligent decisions about what you DO put into your head. 

Don’t let anyone try to talk down to you by suggesting you’re incapable of making conscious, intelligent, values-driven decisions. Anyone who suggests this to you is probably trying to get you’re consent to surrender your decision-making ability to them, “for your own good.” 

For the sake of your self-esteem, I strongly suggest you deny them that consent. 

Successfully creating a life or improving the life you have is never about the “magic” of positive thinking. 

It’s about choices. 

You can make those choices…even if some people in your life have tried very hard to convince you otherwise. 


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