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As I write this, we are reflecting upon one year of national lockdown in the United Kingdom. And guess what? We’re still in lockdown!
It can be difficult to focus on the good in this context.
If you were like most people, you’d have spent the last few weeks complaining about lockdown rules, the lack of visibility, the vaccination program going too slow or too fast, etc…
But you’re not like most people. You know that dwelling on the negative gets you nowhere.
Still, it isn’t always easy to focus on the good when we’re constantly reminded of what goes wrong in the world.
In this post, I lay out 9 practical tips to focus on the good in 2021 that I have tried and tested myself. These tips are no joke. Take action and they will radically change your mindset!
What Does “Focus On The Good” Mean?
To focus on the good means to adapt your perception of the world and choose to bring out the positive.
It does not mean that the world is always a happy place. It does not mean that you do not face struggles, heartbreaks and pain. It also does not mean that you avoid negative emotions.
When you focus on the good, you accept negative emotions but you learn to look for a silver lining. The difficulty is that choosing to focus on the good takes conscious effort and is not a natural state for most of us.
Why You Should Focus On The Good
As humans, we have a natural tendency to focus on the negative. A very important trait when our existence was threatened by predators – but a little less useful today…
When you focus on the good, however, you take control of the narrative in two powerful steps:
- You accept that external stimuli are outside of your control, and
- You learn to retrain your brain to think positively, regardless of external stimuli
Just reflecting on those two steps will open your mind to new possibilities.
But rewiring your brain to focus on the good takes a little training. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to make a huge difference. Read on…
9 Practical Tips to Focus on The Good
1. Keep A Gratitude Journal
If you only do one thing, I suggest you start a gratitude journal at this very moment.
I’m going to be honest with you – it took me a while to start journaling regularly. I never quite had the time. And although having a gratitude journal sounded good on paper (!), it never felt like a priority to me.
Until I started.
I quickly realised that writing 2-3 things a day I am grateful for (and the reasons why) is not as easy as it sounds.
Of course, you have good days when things go amazingly well. But there are many days when things just don’t seem that exciting at all. It’s not really about the bad days. More about the event-less days. The boring days.
On days like these, you can have a hard time thinking about gratitude.
And that’s when the magic happens: it will take you a few days, maybe a couple of weeks, but soon you’ll start seeing positives everywhere, even on dull days.
2. Surround Yourself With Positive People
Think about the usual scene of employees meeting by the water cooler. What do they chat about? Do they talk about all the good things in their lives? How happy they are? How excited they are about the recent changes in the company?
Unlikely: most people like to gossip instead!
Gossiping is a way to create an instant social connection with someone. It’s natural, comfortable and easy.
But although it might make you feel good about yourself for a minute or two, it definitely won’t make you a happier person.
Instead, choose to hang out with positive people.
Positive people will not gossip. Instead, they will sing praises and recognise achievement. When things look bad, they will look for lessons to be learnt. And when things look really bad, they will come up with a plan rather than passively complain about it.
All my mentors are positive people. They have helped me reframe my perception of negative events to focus on the good.
After a while, it will be the way you think as well. And you can spread your new-found positivity to others.
3. Practice Positive Self-Talk
Have you ever caught yourself thinking “I’m not good enough for this”, “Why am I so stupid?” or “What was I thinking?”. Sounds familiar?
That’s because we are our own worst critics!
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have high standards. But if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will…
Start practising positive self-talk daily.
Like journaling, it took me a while to believe affirmations were more than just a fad. Years ago, I started working with a coach to increase my confidence in public speaking. Part of the assignment was to work on positive affirmations to slowly change my mindset, moving from “I’m not good enough to speak in front of these people” to “I am a great public speaker, I deliver value and they respect me for it”.
Now I’m not saying I became a keynote speaker overnight. But the mental block started to melt away as I focused on how I helped them rather than how I looked.
You can use affirmations to tackle any of your self-limiting beliefs. But do not lie to yourself. It’s about reinforcing the positive not making up a fake story. You can’t trick your brain into believing you’re fit and healthy if you never exercise and eat junk food all day!
Here’s a list of 25 affirmations to help you shift your mindset.
RELATED: How To Be Happy At Work (9 Ways)
4. Have A Morning Routine
Having a morning routine and the discipline to stick to it has completely changed my life.
I have two kids, a demanding job and a business to run. Without a good morning routine, I would start chasing my tail the moment I wake up until the end of the day.
But by creating space for myself in the early hours (I wake up at 5 AM), I feel calm, in control and ready to tackle the day ahead.
The first two hours of the day are just for me. I can focus on what I want, be it writing, practising yoga, meditation, exercise or reading.
I won’t lie to you – waking up at 5 AM requires discipline! It took me a couple of months of trial and error to properly establish the routine.
But you’ll quickly realise that the benefits of having time just for you far outweigh the hurdles of an early rise. And once you get there, it becomes second nature.
My trick is to start with something that makes you happy. It will motivate you to get out of bed. For me, it’s sipping an espresso first thing. What could it be for you?
A great book to help you develop a successful morning routine is The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod.
5. Focus On Your Strengths
Your negative bias will have you focused on your weaknesses rather than your strengths. You will pick up on what went wrong and brush off the successes.
Part of solving this problem is to proactively draw attention to your strengths.
If I ask you: “what are your biggest strengths”, what will you answer? If you find the question difficult, take the time to analyse what your strengths are and how they can help you move forward.
Knowing your strengths has a myriad of benefits, including helping you tackle your weaknesses.
If you’re not sure where to start, check out my recent post on why finding your strengths is important and how to do it.
6. Look After Yourself
You have probably heard the adage “treat others like you want to be treated”. But often, what you need to hear instead is “treat YOURSELF like you want to be treated”.
It’s too easy to focus on goals, ambition, building relationships etc… and forget that we need a little self-care now and then.
It’s true for two reasons:
- Taking the time to treat yourself well will go a long way in giving you the perspective to see the good in the world. Take a step back and reflect.
- Practising self-care also means that you grow your self-esteem. You do things that are good for you. And you feel better for it.
So how do you do it?
Focus on the simple things, eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, see your friends, have a bath, meditate etc… Whatever works for you.
But no matter what, do something you love every day, even if it’s for 5 minutes.
7. Give Positive Feedback Daily
You know how quickly you rush into judging others on what they don’t do well? Why not focus your attention instead on what they are good at? And let them know about it.
Building a habit to give positive feedback daily is a bit like gratitude journaling. The more you do it, the more you focus on the positives.
I started doing that a few months ago by committing to reaching out to at least one person a day, regardless of whether my feedback was related to a recent event or something that happened in the past.
This has two benefits: not only did it make me feel good to spread happiness, but I was able to rekindle relationships that were fading away.
8. Reframe Your Thoughts
One of the most powerful ways to focus on the good is, well, to do just that.
When you catch yourself having negative thoughts, being upset about something or judgemental of someone – take a moment to breathe and reflect.
The negative feeling is a trigger. Use this trigger to reframe your thought into something positive.
Too often we let our negative emotions drive us. Because it’s easy and we don’t have to take control. “I’m so angry I could…” (finish the sentence).
I love the example used by Dr Loretta Breunig in this article: the Dog Poop Paradox. If you step into dog poop today, you will be fuming! How on earth could you turn this into a positive?
Try to think about it another way: in the old days, no-one was picking up after their dogs and we were used to that. It was the norm. Now, our streets are cleaner. So much so, that stepping into dog poop is an exception. So really, you should be grateful that most people now pick-up after their dog!
Side note: if you are struggling with your emotions, you could benefit from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. In the UK you can self-refer on the NHS for group therapy but if you can afford it, I recommend paying for one-to-one sessions.
9. Practice Mindfulness
Practising mindfulness will help you develop self-awareness, openness and acceptance. You will start feeling grounded and at peace with yourself.
But being mindful doesn’t have to be complicated and does wonders when it comes to managing your emotions.
Meditation is great, but for many us, it’s a steep learning curve to getting it right (I’m still working on it…). It doesn’t mean you can’t be mindful though.
Start small. Put down your phone when you’re having lunch. Take 5 minutes to breathe before a meeting. Do one thing at a time, and do it well. Enjoy the little things.
You’ll soon realise that you don’t have to be reactive all the time. You can get back control, even if it’s for 5 minutes.
I hope these tips will make a difference. Actually, I know it will as long as you take action.
It is so important to focus on the good. It can change your whole perspective in life and will have a huge impact on your relationships. People will notice and love you for it. You will start a virtuous cycle that will lead to more happiness in your life.
Now don’t get me wrong, you can’t be positive all the time. I’m not (just ask my wife!). We’re only humans!
But by knowing yourself and when to take action, you will ultimately be able to take back control of your emotions. And make the world a happier place!
What do you do to focus on the good every day? Is this something you find easy or are struggling with?
Please share in the comments, I’d love to know and would be happy to help!