I recently did a hip-hop motivational assembly at an elementary school, and I loved watching the reactions of the students.
Some of the students were hanging on every word.
Some of the students were volunteering and having a blast.
Some of the students were trying to be too cool for school.
Some of the students were obviously tired and trying to stay engaged.
The crazy thing is, all of those students were hearing the exact same words that I was saying and seeing the exact same gestures that I was making.
But their experience of my talk was totally different depending on their mindset.
Students who were fully engaged were getting a lot out of the talk because they were focusing on how they could learn and grow. They wanted to get a lot of value and fun from the assembly… and they did.
Students who were trying to impress their friends were focusing on not looking like they were having a good time. They wanted to appear cool, and they were determined not to pay attention to some of the messages… and they didn’t.
It was the best example to illustrate this basic truth about human psychology: what you focus on becomes your reality.
If you focus on all of the negative aspects of a situation, your experience of that situation will be negative.
If you focus on all of the positive aspects of the same situation, your experience of that situation will be positive.
This is easier said than done, I know. It requires conscious effort and self-awareness, and when we’re emotionally worn down, that can be a difficult task to undertake.
Yet, in those challenging times, examining our focus is more important and helpful than any other time in our lives.
A practical way to re-orient our focus is to list all of the things we’re grateful for in a situation. Gratitude has a way of making our minds more peaceful, even if our external circumstances are less than ideal.
Whenever I’m feeling frustrated with a work situation or a relationship, I try to take a deep breath and remind myself that I’m thankful this work situation exists in the first place. I’m thankful that the relationship exists in the first place.
If I’m not thankful that the situation exists, then I need to look at kind and peaceful ways to resolve or leave that situation.
But if I’m going to remain in a situation or interaction, I need to focus on gratitude to bring my best self to that situation or interaction.
When students learn that they control their focus, they gain an incredible tool in their lives. They get to shape the meaning of the events that happen in their lives.
They might not be able to change all of the external circumstances in their lives, but they can change their experience of those circumstances.
And when you change your focus, you remix your reality.