I recently had the pleasure of reading Garth Stein’s wonderful book, The Art of Racing in the Rain. (I also had the pleasure of hearing him speak recently at a book-store presentation; he was witty, informative, and engaging. I look forward to reading his latest book.)
In one section, the hero, a race care driver, advises that during a race, one must never focus on the wall for where the eyes focus, so the car goes.
A friend of mine, who is an “extreme” mountain biker, described how, when riding across a very narrow bridge, it is crucial to focus on the centre of the bridge. If you let your eyes wander to the water or muck on either side, that is where you tend to end up.
These are two metaphors for how to live a purposeful life. It is a truism that where we choose to focus our attention is where we put our thoughts and our energy. It follows that where you put your attention and energy determines your goals, (either purposefully set or simply a reaction, like playing it safe) and hence your actions and results.
If you spend your time thinking about the people who have wronged you, or might hurt you, or who just don’t seem to care about you in the way you need them to, that is understandable, but really a big waste of your time. If you fill your thoughts with all the fears in your life and possible dangers in your future you will use up energy and leave your creative mind untapped.
It is not an easy task to change a habit of focussing on the negative. In terms of our survival as a species, our ancestors had to be vigilant for ever present danger in their environment. It was necessary to pay close attention to whom and what was safe or posed a threat. We come by our tendency to focus on risk avoidance honestly i.e., it is wired in our human brain.
However, it is time to make choices and change our focus. Try changing your focus to “creativity, possibility, good-will, and joy”. Just like my mountain biking friend crossing the narrow bridge, choose your path, follow it through, keep your eyes on what you want, and don’t fall in the mud.