What do you want?
This week, stop to notice how often you hear others complain about what they don’t like and don’t want vs what they do want.
We can almost guarantee you will have a high count in favor of complainers compared to praisers. It’s easy to complain. In fact, it’s much easier to complain than compliment something. Consider this, how often do you grump about something compared to how often you sing praises for something?
You will hear people regularly complaining in public, in the office, at home, literally anywhere you go, you will overhear, or be directly in conversation with others, about what is not working and what’s wrong.
We are naturally disposed to be negative. Our brains have a negativity bias and we focus more on what will go wrong instead of what will go right. That’s part of our survival mechanism, back to the days when we had to run from lions, tigers, and bears - oh my! Now (most of us), are not running from lions, tigers, and bears or hunting for food, but we are overloaded, and running to complete work and commitments without taking a breath or having a break. We are surrounded by news, adverts and social conventions that reinforce negativity, fear, and bad scenarios, and this adds fuel to our negative thinking and that alters and influences our behaviors.
Risk Adverse for Good Reason
We continue to run, and we continue to look for risks. Dashing across the road without looking has dire consequences, so thank goodness we have this risk adverse mentality. Businesses that don’t assess risks and respond accordingly can fail and have severe consequences that impact employees, clients, communities, society, and profitability. It is paramount that we focus on assessing and understanding risks, in order to understand what needs to be done to fix issues, overcome challenges, and strive to be the best of the best - but we need to be aware of what happens when we stay focused on the negative.
Without being aware of our tendencies to be negative, we as individuals, and business entities, miss out on something amazing - the ability to be engaged, impactful, and alive in what we are doing. When it comes to a business, with negativity ruling the roost, the entire eco-system can forget the great things it has achieved together, emotions are contagious, decisions are made out of fear, celebrations are few and far between, understanding how to value differences is lost, appreciation of individuals lacks, and applause is never heard for the collective good that has been achieved together. With these symptoms cracks appear. Employees become disengaged and disconnected from what they’re doing, work life becomes a drudgery, health suffers, stress increases, business costs go up, doors begin revolving fast as higher attrition occurs, and people are not happy because they can’t become the best versions of themselves in an organization they once thought would give them that capacity to strive for greatness. Clients pick up on that and one thing leads to another, complaints come in, services start to be impacted, costs go up, and profits start dipping.
As individuals, we forget to focus on what we really want, we forget to talk about what we love, what we most desire, and we even forget to think and dream about it. We get so caught up in what we don’t want, if given a minute to think about it, we’re not even sure what we do want. And it’s risky to think about about what we do actually want because it’s uncomfortable and involves saying yes to something, which means saying no to something else, and that means being accountable to no-one else but yourself - and that is a tall order, because if it all goes wrong there are no circumstances or anyone else to blame but ourselves. So, we play it safe, complain, and talk about what we don’t want.
Keep talking about what you don’t want, and you’ll keep getting more of what you don’t want because you’re focused on what you don’t want.
Shift Your Negativity Bias
So, if you have read this far then this is your challenge for the week, move yourself into a state of uncovering what you really want.
Begin the week by being conscious to the idea that you’d like to focus on what you do want. Decide you’d like to understand what you really want. That is a big step. Some people don’t want to do that work and that’s ok, but if you’re ready to uncover what really makes you come alive and you’re ready to find out what you want then commit to it and believe it’s possible.
Be open and notice people around you as they talk about what they don’t want. Then, when you notice it, instead of getting sucked into the discussion, just allow others to share what they don’t want without you feeling the need to jump onboard. Resist the urge to comment and become part of the what’s not working crowd.
Start to consider what you do want, make it easy, start small. Consider your lunch options - what do you really want? Give yourself an A and B choice. Find two options that feel great to you and go with the one that stands out. It’s a very simple exercise, but you are rewiring your brain to consider what you do really want. The degree to how easy you find this exercise will give you insight into how easy it is for you to know what you want and to be easily able to spot that. Once this exercise is easy, move up a level and find A or B options for other topics, where you have to consider the “what you want”, not the “what you don’t want”. Continue building from there.
Begin asking your friends and colleagues what they want when you’re talking about anything you’re in discussion over, and then migrate to family - often having these sorts of conversations with family is harder because you’re in routine patterns and changing that can be uncomfortable. Start with friends and colleagues first because there is less emotional undercurrent. Get into discussion about what’s working and then how could those elements be repeated, what are the characteristics of success?
Share with someone, about anything, what you would like. Pick a topic, literally anything and share what your ideal would be, what you would really like. After the conversation notice how you feel. Usually when you move yourself into considering what you would really like you tap into emotions that feel really really good, and you somehow feel lighter. When you feel lighter your ideas, inspirations, creativity, motivation, and commitment levels all rise.
If you like writing, or even if you don’t, grab a notebook and start scribbling. Scribble out a page of what you would like. Don’t worry about grammar, about neat writing, just write, get those words out. No-one is going to read it. If you feel uncomfortable shred it afterwards, tear it up into tiny pieces, if you have a fire, burn it! Just get writing. Not typing, writing. There is important brain chemistry that occurs when you use a pen and write on paper. You can choose any topic; job, family, friends, career, holidays, financial, health, successes, anything. The important part here is to focus on what you want and desire. Resist the urge to bring in reasons of why you can’t have it, or it won’t work, or what’s wrong with the world, or you, or others. Just focus on what you want.
Start with these areas and you will begin to rewire your thoughts to focus on what you want. It takes time, practice, and actually becomes a lifestyle, because you are this amazing, ever changing, human. Your thoughts are continually evolving and you continue to grow. By adopting these small steps you will set yourself up to be able to understand what you want, not respond to what others want or tell you to do, but you will be making decisions for yourself about your own life.
Spend time dreaming, then you’ll know which plane, train, car, boat, or bike to board when it comes your way. You might even go by foot. But without dreaming and uncovering what you want you won’t know what to look out for when it comes your way.
There is a lot in life that is alluring and attractive, there is a lot in life that we don’t want, but you won’t truly know if it’s want you want when it comes along unless you’ve spent time considering what works for you, and only you. Jobs can be alluring, but only to find when you get into them it’s not exactly what you thought. Social norms can be attractive only to discover it’s not what you want when you get there. Short-circuit the disappointments and spend time working out what you do want and you will live your life, not someone else’s. When choices come along, you will then know what decisions are right for you and which ones aren’t.