In working with the community that has developed around our Dreambook, Briana and I have encountered people looking for many different forms of life-optimization. While there’s plenty of guidance we can offer someone to help them figure out and actualize what makes them happy, we meet quite a lot of people who essentially already have it. They really are living the dream. The main issue is that they just don’t see it.
They often suffer from what my friend Andy Dooley calls “lousy and lazy thinking.” Today I want to talk about the antidote. Whether you’ve already got a great thing going or there’s clearly a gap between where you are now and where you want to be, either way, you’ll benefit from being deliberate with how you use your attention.
Attention is like fertilizer. When you put your attention on something it grows.
This is why panicky thoughts tend to balloon and pain tends to increase when we focus on it. Unfortunately, bad experiences also tend to cut deeper grooves in our inner terrain, causing stronger memories and a tendency to be retriggered. We can easily get into a negative feedback loop as the thought “something’s wrong” demands our attention and then gets fed by it.
Our nervous system is just trying to be helpful; we’re wired this way to ensure our survival. Thus, it’s by design that things that signal danger are able to usurp our attention. But even while the risk of physical danger is lower than ever for most modern humans, we’ve trained ourselves to react similarly to a very broad range of other conditions, like money scarcity and situations that could lead to disapproval by our peers (because we subconsciously associate both money and our tribe’s approval with our survival).
But as humans with highly evolved brains capable of reasoning, we don’t need to be run by our animalistic side. We can change our default programs. One of the best antidotes is get a hold of that mind and put your attention on something else. Your two best options are (1) whatever you are currently engaged with (A.K.A. mindfulness) (2) anything that is good, fascinating, funny, joyous, celebratory, beautiful, loving, trustworthy, kind, generous, or peaceful.
By putting your attention on what is good and what is here and now, you fertilize those parts of life and override your overactive survival mechanisms. Not only does this help heal you of the tendency to focus on the bad (or possibly-maybe-could-be-bad), if you do it enough it actually starts to change your life.
If you’re using the Dreambook, an easy thing to put your attention on is all the goals you achieve. Too often we complete something, barely register it, and move on to the next thing. Just pausing, acknowledging, and celebrating this achievement amplifies the feelings of satisfaction, self-trust, and gratitude.
Revel in those feelings. The satisfaction of completion – like finishing a puzzle or making it to the finish line – is a combination of relief and delight. The feeling of self-trust is like an inner stability and fortitude. You said you were going to do this and you do it. You can rely on yourself. You will always be there for you. Finally, gratitude makes you feel expansive and connected. Consider all the internal powers (your body, your ingenuity, your creativity, your persistence, etc.), external powers (the people and resources that helped you get it done), and spiritual powers (the vision, strength, and gifts of your Highest Self) that made this possible. It’s like saying to your system, “I’m pressing the save button. I’m configuring myself for trust, fulfillment, serendipities, and optimism.”
While it’s especially important to do this with your big quarterly and one-year or longer-term goals, it’s perfectly wonderful to do it with your monthly, weekly, and daily goals too. In fact, the more you celebrate the more you start to notice reasons to celebrate.
Be so well,