Do you feel like you want to change your life, but find that everytime you start making changes, you get in your own way and sabotage your own efforts. Do you feel like you want change and fear change at the same time, so you get stuck and don't move forward at all? Don't worry, you're not crazy or broken - your mind-body system is working exactly as it's meant to. When you understand how it works, instead of trying to use willpower to fight your natural tendencies, you can use your natural tendencies to take you to where you want to be. This is how we work:
We like what’s familiar, because familiarity is easier. Familiarity enables us to process and make meaning of reality much more quickly. Familiarity is also safer - processing the meaning of reality more quickly, means we can respond to reality more quickly, which is sometimes necessary for survival. And we’ve all heard the saying, “better the devil you know than the one you don’t know.” Because we like familiarity, we’re drawn to stick with it and bring more of it into our lives. And have an automatic tendency to resist or avoid anything unfamiliar.
This is great if you love the life you’re familiar with. But if there’s anything you don’t love about your life, changing it is probably going to mean bringing something unfamiliar into your life. Remember that we automatically resist anything unfamiliar... so how can you stop fighting yourself and leverage the way you’re naturally designed, to make the changes you want to make? Well, before you try bringing them into your life, you can get familiar with the new things you want to have, do and be. That way, they’ll be familiar, and you won’t resist them - in fact, you’ll naturally draw them into your life.
How do I get familiar with the new things I want to bring into my life? Whatever you’re focusing on in your mind is what you’re getting familiar with. So if you want to get familiar with something different, start focusing on it in your imagination, before you even start working on bringing it into your reality. That way, by the time you start bringing it into your reality, it’ll feel totally comfortable, like a sense of coming home.
In our busy, information-saturated lives, the ability to control what you focus on is possibly the most powerful skill that you can master. We have stuff going on that distracts us and demands our attention all the time, and it can be really difficult at times to manage or change what we’re focusing on. What you’re focusing on is what you’re getting familiar with - and what you’re going to bring more of into your life. So here are some tips on how you can take back control of your attention and focus your mind on the stuff you want to bring into your life:
- Reduce your sources of distraction. Tim Ferris, author of the Best-selling book, “The 4 Hour Work Week,” talks about limiting incoming channels of information. Unsubscribe from the mailing lists and RSS feeds that don’t really add value. Switch off your email alerts and check email only twice a day. Block off time in your diary and close your office door, put your phone on voicemail and let your colleagues know not to interrupt you unless it’s genuinely an emergency. Don’t subscribe to those services that let you get notifications by sms on your mobile, and limit your TV intake or quit TV altogether.
- Introduce anchors to remind you what you want to be focusing on. You can create reminders that will help to distract you from focusing on the stuff that tends to automatically pull your attention. Create sms or email alerts that remind you what's important to you. Put up pictures around your workspace of the experiences you want to bring into your life. Subscribe to blogs that are talking about the stuff you want to get familiar with. Write statements of the beliefs you want to be familiar with and place these where you’ll see them regularly.
- Hang out with people who are focusing on what you want to focus on. Possibly the most powerful pull on our attention comes from other people. In our attempts to connect with other people, our natural tendency is to focus on the stuff that other people we’re interacting with are focusing on. Also, we tend to find people who already think like us, and hang out with them, and then we reinforce those familiar ways of thinking for each other. If you want to bring new experiences into your life, start hanging out with people who are already familiar with those experiences - because that’s what they’ll be focusing on. Because focus is so contagious, make sure you hang out with people who are focusing on what you want to focus on.
- Take time to relax yourself and do some concentrated day-dreaming, focusing on what you want to bring into your life. You already know how to do this, except most of us are day-dreaming about stuff that could go wrong, imagining the disasterous ends in great detail, and getting ourselves familiar with alot of experiences that we don’t want. Take back control of your attention and focus on imagining having the experiences you want already, and how your life will be different as a result. Imagine how you’ll feel. Dream up all the multi-sensory detail. The more detailed you are in your day-dreaming, the more familiar you’ll be with the changes you’re dreaming about - and the more smoothly you’ll start bringing them into your life.