Shifting Your Focus

When trying to overcome a personal problem, such as anxiety, a useful way of helping yourself is to change where your focus lies.

Let me explain. In most cases, when you have a problem, a natural tendency is that you are overly fixated on what you do not want. Nearly every client I work with can give me a precise account of what is wrong, how things are bad and what they want to overcome. And that is an excellent starting point.

However this alone is not enough to create lasting change.

What is often missing is focusing on an outcome, what would you rather do instead?
The question, what would be different, what would you rather do instead, is usually answered by things like:
I won’t be doing this, I won’t be feeling that, my feelings about xyz will be gone etc.

As you may have noticed, these typical answers still focus on the absence of the problem. We need to change that.

So my recommendation is to focus on the solution. For example if you have anxiety, focus on being in a situation which at the moment may be challenging, and focus on what happens when you are free of anxiety.
Would you be calm? Confident? Neutral / content? What would be different? What would you be doing? What would you have?

This takes a bit of imagination and creativity. If you feel like you are kidding yourself to begin with, that is ok too. The key here is to persist, have a go and get stuck in.
Also note the imagined outcome doesn’t have to be bliss and utopia – in fact there is a lot of power in neutrality and coming up with an imagined outcome which is unspectacular, but is good enough to build upon.
Put in as much or little details as you want, some people are really motivated by specifics, others work better with things a little more vague and big picture.

So start to become an expert in what you want instead, instead of what you do not want. It’s a subtle change that makes a big difference.

Category: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy