The Fastest Way to Change Your Life
You should see the looks I get when I tell people I don’t want to talk about the latest school shooting or participate in political discussions.
It’s not because I’m naive or self-centered; it’s because I know that what I put my attention on expands in my life.
It is no coincidence that the more we talk about school shootings, the more school shootings there are. It is not a stroke of bad luck that a terribly unqualified, dangerous person can get elected to the most powerful political position in the world by creating controversy and getting the lion’s share of media attention.
Our energy is precious, and we can make conscious choices about where to share that energy. When you think about something, it expands. When you talk about something, you’re magnifying it. When you worry about stuff, you are amplifying it in your own mind and in the world around you.
Yes, it’s tempting to complain about everything that’s wrong, and much of it is certainly justified. We could talk for hours about the train wreck in the White House, or the latest tragedy on the news, or how unfair it is that moms have to do so much unpaid and unacknowledged work, or how much your boss sucks. Commiserating about these issues certainly feels good in the moment, and it’s satisfying to bond with others in these conversations. But is it really serving us in the long run?
If you wake up every day thinking about everything that’s wrong, is that helping you at all? If you go through your morning routine dreading work, or replaying that fight with your spouse, or thinking about your annoying coworkers, are you improving your life? Have you ever seen someone completely obsessed with a divorce that happened 20 years ago, living a miserable life? Or someone that recounts over and over again a terrible tragedy from their childhood, and suffers from depression? I know someone who even documents everything bad that happens to her in a journal and carries it with her everywhere she goes; it’s no surprise that she struggles with addiction and lives a very challenging life.
It’s easy to see in those situations how those people are determining their current state of mind by choosing to focus on a negative event or situation. You may be doing the exact same thing in a more subtle way.
Do you watch the news and get upset over what they’re reporting? Do you talk about it at work the next day?
Do you focus on arguments and disagreements, and replay them in your head?
Do you have frequent “bitch sessions” with friends where you recount all the terrible stuff that’s happened to you since the last time you talked?
Do you come home from work and recount to your spouse all the annoying things your boss or coworkers did that day?
Do you complain about being overworked, underpaid, or not having enough time or energy each day?
I certainly don’t blame you; it’s all completely natural and normalized in our culture. It’s much easier to engage with the negativity than to choose not to. But staying focused on that stuff will keep you stuck and unhappy -- that I know for sure. If you want to be happier, if you want things to be better, if you want to change your life, you can make conscious decisions about what you think about and what you talk about. It’s that simple. Once you start doing it in your own life, you will slowly start to see how you can be an agent for change in the world, even if it’s just sharing a different way of thinking with those around you.
Your thoughts and words are incredibly powerful, and you can start to make deliberate choices about what you are contributing to in the world. I can tell you with absolute certainty that the more you think and talk about negative things, the worse they will get, and the more you think and talk about positive things, the better your life will be.
It’s not always easy to extract yourself from uncomfortable conversations -- I struggle with it every day. You don’t have to become a vocal activist and you don’t have to be argumentative. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is just gracefully change the subject. And other times it will be necessary to gently explain that you’d rather not discuss the topic at hand. I find that most people will pick up on social cues and leave you alone, but others need to be told outright. It’s ok to say things like:
“Yeah, that really drags me down. I’d rather talk about something else.”
“Ugh, I’m not giving that one more ounce of my energy. What else is going on?”
“Let’s talk about something more uplifting! Thinking about ___ is putting me in a bad mood!”
Imagine how different the world would be if we were all focused on staying positive, helping each other, and spreading love wherever we can. This is not just some theoretical pipe-dream; I’ve seen the very real changes in my own life resulting from changing the way I think, and being deliberate about the energy I put out in the world through my words and actions.
I’ve seen people I interact with on a daily basis change the way they talk to me, or censor the subject matter of our conversations. I’ve heard from countless people about how much better their days are now that they make a choice to stay positive and start each day off on the right foot. I’ve seen depression evaporate when people learn how to control their thoughts and put their attention on the things they want in life.
Your life will take off when you put your attention on positive things and ignore the negativity. I’ve seen it happen for myself, and I’ve seen it happen for countless others. It’s a simple concept with huge benefits. How can you get started today?