We give strength to what we focus on

If you’ve been bitten by a mosquito or ant, then you probably know this feeling: The more you think about it, the more it itches, and the more you’re dying to scratch it. 

That’s pretty much always what happens to me— I know I shouldn’t scratch it, and that I’m increasing its healing time by doing that, but I just can’t help it. It’s the only thing I can think about, and as a result the itch gets stronger and stronger. It’s not until I distract myself with something else (which isn’t easy of course) that it starts to calm down and eventually go away, or at least retreat to a dull roar.

That sensation occurs because we give strength to what we focus on. It’s true when it’s a bug bite, and it’s also true when it’s a feeling or emotion. I started spin cycling back in February of this year, and it has not been easy. The classes are 45 minutes of interval training, arm work, ab work, and sprinting/cycling of course. Somewhere around minute 20, I want nothing more than to jump off the bike or back off the challenges, and just coast home. The problem is that the more I think about how I want it to be easier— the more that sensation grows in my mind, and the less likely I am to finish the class with any strength or resolve at all. 

Instead, we’re coached to focus on our intention. Why did we get out of our comfy clothes, throw on gym clothes, and show up to get our asses kicked for 45 minutes? We did it because we have a purpose. For me, it’s to get (and stay) in shape, and to feel good about myself. When I shift my focus to that intention, then I start to feel stronger. More empowered— like this bike has nothing on me, and I can totally crush the remainder of the session. 

This works anywhere in our lives. I’ve recently started noticing it in my own work as a developer/entrepreneur. There are many times when I hit an emotional roadblock, and feel like I’m never going to be able to figure something out. Or that implementing a feature is just too hard, and too much work, and I’d rather go do something else fun. That’s when I realize I’m giving strength to the lazy and negative version of myself, rather than focusing on all the positive things. I start to shift my thinking towards all the times I have figured it out, or all the things I have already accomplished. (Sometimes looking back is a great way to see just how far you’ve come.) I begin to feel empowered and I’m on my way!

The next time you’re feeling unsure of yourself, or you feel doubt creeping in, what can you focus on instead to push you forward? What have you already accomplished that you’re proud of that you can use as fuel to keep going? Find something positive, and focus on that, and it will give you the strength you need. The world is already so critical— you don’t need to add your own voice to the critics! 

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