Training Your Focus Towards Change
By Elisha Goldstein, guest contributor
If there's one thing we know about 2020, it's been a year of change and transition. As 2021 is approaching, our minds may already be thinking about what we want to shift in the year ahead. When we start thinking about embarking on a change journey, we often envision ourselves at the pinnacle of success. We are running that 5K, conversing in Spanish fluently, seeing an ideal body, or are getting a stellar review. However, once we really get down to work we quickly realize that making change isn’t quite so easy…
In fact, most successful change journeys are a blend of small successes, small stumbles, support and encouragement from friends or community, big leaps of courage and vulnerability, some stalling and frustration, uncovering self-compassion, and then getting back to progress. And repeat…
When creating change, one of the most invaluable resources we have is our attention.
Consider for a moment, what we pay attention to and how we pay attention determines where our energy goes and what we bring into our life.
If you put attention towards worries or feeling down about your progress, that’s the energy you’re going to drum up in the present moment. In turn, that energetic state influences your perception, the actions you take, and the consequences that follow.
Our brains likes the familiar, comfortable or routine, since we’re wired to ensure our survival by following the path that is well known. This is why change can feel risky as the thought of heading into unknown or uncertain territory sets off alarm bells in the brain (specifically in the amygdala), even if the reality is that the risk could be a great support to our own happiness.
In other words, when we try to make changes, the brain is quite likely to object and put up limiting beliefs. Thoughts like “you can’t do this” or “don’t do that, a disaster might happen” fly around and you begin to catastrophize. The option to stick with what’s comfortable and safe, like surfing the web or social media, rather than trying something new, can seem a lot more attractive. So, it’s easy to fall back into a pattern routine when you believe the limiting beliefs your brain is re-affirming.
The first essential step to making sustainable change is honing your attention by training your focus. By learning how to pause, dip, and meeting the operating system of those routine patterns and motivations that are driven by a need to feel certain or safe in some way.
Through practice, we can teach our brain what is important to pay attention to in respect to the life we want to live. That starts with training your focus!
The reality is, to do this is very simple. When you practice riding a bike, with some level of repetition, you get better at it. The same is true for playing an instrument, walking, learning a new language, and even eating habits.
Training your brain to attend to what matters to you is no different. Practicing meditations, with some level of intention and repetition, is a way to get increasingly better at training your focus towards the way you want to be in the world.
In other words, if you want your brain to give weight to the things that will help you be more present, joyful, grateful, have stronger relationships, be more focused at work, meditation is a way of telling your brain… “Hey, this is an important thing I want to focus on in my daily life.”
As we gain back control of our minds through focused attention, it becomes a LOT easier to prioritize, so that we can hone the seeds of change and begin to truly blossom!
Elisha Goldstein, PhD is one of the world's preeminent mindfulness teachers, a clinical psychologist, author of numerous books, articles programs and founder of the Mindful Living Collective.
More from the author: Are you feeling overwhelmed, unclear, stuck in old habits, alone or disconnected? On January 11th, 2021, join Elisha Goldstein, PhD, social wellness expert, Aaron Kahlow and a tribe of value aligned people in a 9-Week Life-Shift journey that will make the difference toward a meaningful change and life.
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