A few years ago, I attended a post-graduate training called “Organic Intelligence” by a brilliant man named Steve Hoskinson. Steve introduced me to a practice that has changed my life and perspective. It is practical and profound, and I think it will help you, too. It’s called cultivating a “What’s Right Attention.”
A What’s Right Attention is our ability to shift our focus from what is going wrong to what is going right.
Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, it’s a bit tricker than you’d think.
Steve explained that humans have a deeply ingrained biological tendency to notice what’s going wrong.
We are wired to scan for danger - assessing potential threats, hazards, and what’s lacking (in our relationships and our environment.) This wiring makes sense! It kept our ancestors safe from harm. They would not have fared well if they weren’t assessing their environment for potential predators that could harm them.
Unfortunately, this wiring can have significant implications for our mental health.
Here's the problem:
While we do need to be scanning for danger in actual hazardous situations, these life-threatening situations are far less common in today’s age.
Our survival is rarely at stake, and yet our brain treats common problems (finances, job issues, relationship problems, dating problems, and parenting problems) as real, life-threatening scenarios. Our body responds as if a lion was chasing us. Our heart races as if we are under attack. We mobilize or fight to protect ourselves.
Our hearts race.
Our hearts race.
We forget that we are actually, indeed, safe.
Because of this, we can get stuck in patterns of hypervigilance (scanning for danger) and fear. We can begin to live a life full of chronic stress and anxiety – inspecting our lives, relationships, and future for potential hazards instead of resting in safety and joy. Our minds habitually focus on what’s wrong.
And when we only look for what’s going wrong, we will indeed only find what’s going wrong.
Here's the good news: As we redirect our attention to what’s “right” and what is “good,” we can rewire our neural pathways and create more balance in our perspective.
When our brain isn’t chronically trying to “protect and defend,” we create MUCH more space to enjoy, be still, create, learn, and grow.
- We can move out of our “fight/flight” response and back into calm and safety.
- We can calm our nervous system down and teach our brains that we are not always in danger.
- We can enhance our relationships as we see what is good in them rather than what is lacking.
- We can find more awe in our bodies as we intentionally notice the beauty around us.
So how do we shift our attention from ‘what's wrong’ to ‘what's right.’ Consider trying this practice this week:
Take a few moments each day to pause and notice what's going well.
Notice the contributions of a helpful coworker. Your child’s laugh. The pink sunset. A powerful song. A beautiful painting. A clean kitchen. Your unique strengths and your partners. A conversation with a good friend.
If you can, notice what happens in your body when you scan for ‘what’s right.’ Maybe a dropping of your shoulders. A deep breath. A release. Sit with that sensation for 5-10 seconds.
Consistency is key here. If you continue to embody this practice, you will train your brain to naturally focus on the more positive aspects of life. Over time, you will experience more gratefulness, calm, acceptance, and well-being, both mentally and somatically.
Thinking about you all this week,
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