“Lemme go or I’ll hit you again,”
shouted Brer Rabbit.
The Tar Baby, she said nothing.
“Fine! Be that way,” said Brer Rabbit, swinging at the Tar Baby with his free paw.
Now both his paws were stuck in the tar.
– Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby,
retold by S.E. Schlosser
Few people understand that what you focus on becomes part of your experience. And the more you focus on it, the bigger it gets.
Most people focus on the struggle – pushing away what they don’t want to try to get more of what they do want, focusing on problems in order to “resolve” them. We see quite a lot of that in traditional approaches to recovery and healing.
It just doesn’t make sense to try to get rid of something by focusing your attention on it. The more you engage your mind with the problem, the more you are stuck there – It’s like Tar-Baby.
Instead of trying to fix the “illness” – talking about it, examining it, unraveling it, regretting it, reliving it – we encourage people to focus their time and energy on building a new kind of life – practicing a healthy lifestyle, healthy thinking, healthy relationships, finding a sense of purpose. Build up those things and the symptoms fade. They get replaced with health.
Is it work? Absolutely.
But focusing on what you want is a more direct route because it puts the power of momentum on your side.
And it feels better!
Take a minute and ask yourself – for whatever problem you are facing – what focus will bring healing into your experience?
I’m finding more and more that the things I don’t want are things of my own making. That I’ve been making things much too hard on myself – doing things the hard way. I mean, literally – I assume that certain tasks are hard, so I actually do them the hard way!
I was doing some data entry, for example, and I just had this belief that it was better if I entered more data. And the more data I entered, the more invalid entries I had. But I kept at it. I kept hammering away at correcting the entries and gathering perfected data, until I ran into a situation that couldn’t be corrected by any means except by entering less information. And – lo and behold – the system works perfectly with very little data and, in fact, with less data, I have fewer entry rejections! And this is just one tiny example.
I’m smiling while I tell you – I’m now cutting corners all over the place!
And it turns out that being happy is the easy way to get things done. I’ve had this belief that struggle has to be part of any success equation! That sentence would be funny except that most of us believe it!
I mean – read that sentence again – struggle has to be part of any success equation? When you look at it, it’s absolutely self-defeating. I mean the whole point of trying to gain that success is be happy, right? So if you’re not happy along the way, then how did you succeed? By setting up conditions that have to be satisfied before you will allow yourself to be happy?
Believe me, because I’ve had years of experience with setting those requirements, and I can honestly tell you – it’s better to be happy now.
If you make your happiness conditional, there are three possible outcomes:
1) you don’t get what you want and you are unhappy,
2) you get what you want and you are happy very briefly, just until you move on to the new set of conditions that need to be met before you can really be happy, or
3) you get what you want but you don’t know how to enjoy it (because you’ve been unhappy for so long that happiness is unfamiliar and emotionally inaccessible).
None of these outcomes bring lasting happiness! It’s a losing formula.
The alternative is to allow yourself to be happy, by finding happiness inside. The source of happiness lies in your focus. To find something good about now, and focus on it until you feel that goodness inside you. Until you relax.
I say “allow” because feeling happy is the exact opposite of struggle. I know when you are troubled you feel like you have to undo something, to fix it. But the effort you’re making to keep the emotional discomfort controlled, is actually keeping you bound to it. Happiness doesn’t come that way. It comes from taking your attention off the pain, releasing it, letting it go.
It’s not denial when you choose to look at life the easy way. Cut some of those mental corners.