The last thing most of us need is a lecture about the stuff we’re doing wrong.
Which is what makes it so frustrating that lectures about what we’re doing wrong are what the world seems to consistently want to give us…even people and organizations the mission of which is to support us and help us improve our lives.
For some reason, people and organizations seem to think they’re doing us a favor by pointing out what we’re doing wrong. As if we’re not acutely aware of what we’re doing that’s kicking our own butts.
This even permeates the self-help and personal empowerment community. It seems I see multiple posts or videos a week basically devoted to exposing the flaws, skill deficits, and misconceptions of the very audience who is watching and reading and otherwise consuming this material.
Trust me: most of the time, we know our weaknesses. We don’t need someone pointing them out to us.
What’s more, we don’t particularly need somebody— “expert” or otherwise— talking down to us, as if what we really just needed was a stern lecture to straighten up and fly right.
I try to take a different approach to therapy, coaching and personal empowerment. I like to start with what someone is doing RIGHT.
I like to start with what’s WORKING in someone’s current approach.
I like to start with what HAS worked in the past.
There is nobody— I mean it, nobody— so far down the rabbit hole that NOTHING in their current approach to the world is working well.
Hell, if somebody is SURVIVING at all…that means they’re doing SOMETHING right.
I like to start there. In my view, there’s a huge difference between identifying and building strengths on the one hand, versus obsessing about and shaming weaknesses on the other.
In psychotherapy, this approach is called the “solution focused” approach. As the name implies, it focuses far more on identifying and enacting constructive solutions rather than zeroing in on problems and weaknesses.
Why is it important to focus on building and problem solving, as opposed to highlighting weaknesses and problems themselves?
Because what we focus on tends to expand, at least in our minds.
If we are reminded every single day of our shortcomings, we will become hyper aware of the ways in which we don’t measure up to either a real or imagined standard.
If we are reminded every single day of the ways in which our lives are not working, we will becoming conditioned to identify MORE ways in which our lives are not working.
If we are reminded every single day of the ways in which we have failed and floundered, those failings and floundering will seem more real or important than our other attributes and experiences…even though they only constitute a subset of who we are and what we’ve been through.
What you focus on becomes more important in your mind’s eye.
By your focus, you are telling your brain and body what is most important.
By your focus, you are essentially giving your brain and body a command to produce and emphasize more of “this.”
Understand, there is no guarantee that focusing on solutions will, in fact, produce solutions. There are plenty of problems and challenges that are complex and vexing, and it’s not as if solving those problems and overcoming those challenges are easy. (If they were easy, they wouldn’t be problems and challenges in the first place.)
Focusing on strengths and solutions isn’t a guarantee— but it is a way to influence the odds.
I like the odds of finding a solution if we are FOCUSED on strengths and solutions a lot more than if we are focused on problems and obstacles.
All we can do is influence the odds that we will overcome a challenge.
All we can do, by definition, is what we can do. We have exactly the strengths and resources and advantages that we have.
If we have any chance of maximizing and using those strengths and resources and advantages, we need to condition our mind to recognize, embrace, and emphasize them.
Focus on where you want to go. Focus on where you want to be. Focus on what you want.
And chances are you’re a lot stronger and more resourceful than you’ve been led to believe.
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