Episode 108: Focus on What Feels Good

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We’ve just gone through all the holidays and so many of you are still trying to process a lot of things that happened over that busy season. Maybe gatherings, events, words that were said, some triggering gifts or experiences with gift giving or receiving, hurt feelings, loneliness, rejection, frustration, or overwhelm and today I want to help you out because no matter what’s going on in your life, what your circumstances are, where you’re at in the world – this podcast episode can be a game changer for you.

Too often we’re in our heads and just full of thought drama. We’re thinking about our to-do list, we’re ruminating over what someone else said or did or didn’t do. We’re overthinking decisions we’ve made or have yet to make. We’re just expending so much mental energy which then translates into our physical energy and emotions and it’s exhausting.

Pause for a moment and think about what you want. 

We’re so focused on what we don’t want that we forget to think about what we actually do want. Maybe narrow it in a bit, what do you want today? What do you want for certain relationships? What do you want for this new year? For your progression, for your career, for your family, for your life?

What do you really want?

And you might have thoughts about things – like, I want certain things in my life. I want to accomplish big things. I want to know that I’m special and that I matter. I want things done/accomplished/paid off/completed.

What you want might include things you want from or about others – like, I want others to just not judge and be nice and this is so interesting because several of you have made comments just in the last few days about feeling judged by people over the holidays. 

Or we think want others to show up maybe in a less dramatic way. Like, cool it Iady. There’s this pin on Pinterest that I saw years and years ago that I think about and laugh in my mind at sometimes. It’s one of those old vintage comic things? It’s these two ladies in their big ballgowns and one of them is whispering to the other, “darling, your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in a bit”

Because we all know, we humans are kind of amazing at that, right? We are so good at being very human. So it’s understandable to think we want others to be a little less dramatic. We want others to be understanding and kind.

Or when you ask yourself what you want, it might be the overall manner – like, I just want today to go well. I want it to be peaceful. I just want it to feel better and like my life, have something to look forward to, to wake up looking forward to life.

So just pause and explore what that question really means to you right now. Don’t overthink it, like we’re all so good at doing. You can change your answer at any time, there is NO right answer. Just explore. What do I want?

So here’s the thing, when you look closely at all the things you want – what you really want – you’re going to discover that it’s less about the things, the people, the accomplishments; it really boils down to the feeling. 

You want those things because you think that if you had them then you’d feel better. Then you’d feel good.

If those people showed up differently then I’d feel better.

If I had that goal then I’d be happier.

If I had more money then I’d feel better.

If I lost the weight, then I’d feel beautiful.

Or at least this is what our brain is trying to sell us on. But we don’t realize and really internalize that what we really want isn’t the thing, the event, the other persons reaction to be different – what we really want is the feeling and you know what? You don’t have to wait.  Things don’t have to be different.

You have 100% control over how you choose to feel and why not focus on what feels good to you?

That’s the focus and center of this episode, learning to FOCUS on what feels good.

Now I want you to notice that I did not say focus on positivity and happy. I said, focus on what feels good.

We are complex human beings and we feel a lot of things. We don’t always want to be happy. There are times when I want to choose to sit in negative emotions. I want to choose to sit in grief, or sadness at times. I want to sit in courage and you know that courage doesn’t feel happy. Courage means you’re stepping into something new, something that requires growth – but it can feel good to you. 

It can mean that you’re allowing yourself to expand, to increase your capacity to experience life even fuller. So focus on what feels good to you which means you have to check in with yourself.  You have to stop long enough to mute out the external extra chatter and interrupt the internal story that’s playing and to open a new thread, a new focus, a new topic where you are front and center – where your well-being is front and center.

What’s so important about this concept is reminding ourselves that our human brain currently can really only focus on one thing at a time. Researchers have blown the whole multitasking myth out of the water saying that we don’t multi-task. Our brain just shifts from one task to the other and not very effectively either.

And this is good to know because if we’re talking about focusing on what feels good then what that means is you deliberately choose to turn your focus from what’s causing pain and suffering to what feels good.

Do you remember the car example I’ve talked about before on previous episodes? You can be in a car and there’s two side windows that offer you an outside view but you can’t see what’s out of both of them at the same time. You can only see what you choose to look at – what you choose to focus on, what window you choose to turn towards.

It’s the same with our thoughts and our attention and thus our emotions as well.

When you focus on what feels good it tunes out the very thing that was creating the pain in the first place and instead creates a good feeling and if you remember the model that good feeling translates into good actions and good actions means good results.

If this (whatever this is in this moment) doesn’t feel good, what does? What would? It’s like, I don’t like this view – stop looking. Stop focusing on it and when you stop focusing on it – you can turn your attention and energy to something else, something that is more productive and helpful for you.

It’s like with a person, a friend, a family member that starts to act in a way that you see as annoying or rude or unpleasant and you start focusing on it. 

You know the definition of focus means to narrow in on, the center of your interest and activity, to concentrate on, to adjust your eyes towards, to pay particular attention to it.

If you don’t like it, if it’s causing you pain – why on earth would we want to focus on it?

My family gave me this mirror years ago. I was using this tiny little mirror that comes with your tweezers to shape my eyebrows and so it comes with that mirror that is more magnified and my family thought, “Why is she using that tiny mirror? I bet she’d like a bigger one” so they bought me this bigger, crazy super magnified mirror and the first time I looked into it I was like, “Whoa! I did not know I looked like that!” Because it magnifies everything. Every pore on your face, every translucent hair, every wrinkle, every everything and I thought to myself, “you know, I think I’m good with my teeny mirror that only focuses on the teeny area I’m wanting to examine at the moment”.

So when someone or something is bothering you it’s like we whip out that super magnified mirror and pretty soon all we can see are these undesired aspects and beliefs about them. Stop magnifying them. Stop looking for them. Stop focusing on them.

When you stop long enough to realize that, “Whoa…this doesn’t feel good” then you can ask yourself, “well, what does?” And there are always, in abundance things that you can focus on that feel good to you – genuine things – and that’s really the key, my friends. It has to be real. It has to be genuine or it won’t create the feeling.

I love thinking this thought, “In this moment…”

In this moment I am warm

In this moment I am safe 

In this moment I am healthy 

In this moment…

And I can focus on the feeling. I can focus on what feels good. This doesn’t ignore what I don’t like that can still exist and be there I’m just not fueling it anymore. I’m not focusing on it or narrowing in on it or telling my brain to find evidence of it anymore. 

Instead I’ve given my brain a new task – what does feel good?

Let’s look for that, let’s magnify that. And then you start to see things you didn’t see previously. You see that tiny little flower growing out of a crack on the sidewalk or the particular color of someone’s eyes. You start to see that there’s abundance around you and you don’t have to focus on the things that don’t feel good to you.

A helpful practice is to slow down your breathing. Take long, deep breaths- in through the nose and out through the mouth and while doing this you start to pause from the inner story. When you shift your focus from all the noise and the chatter in your mind to concentrating on breathing it gives you the gift of space and rest. 

In meditation, often you’re asked to clear your mind and this is difficult to do when you’re triggered by something and you brain is really adamant that the story must be heard and so in those moments instead of trying to drop the story all together it’s really helpful to shift the focus from the story to the breathing and I just count 1 – 2, 1 – 2. When I breathe in, I fill my mind with the number 1 – just 1 and then as I breathe out I breathe out with 2. 

It’s bland and neutral so it doesn’t carry any meaning or triggers or anything that would pull me towards negativity or anything non-productive for me. It’s just gently shifting my focus of the mental drama to being present and aware of what’s happening in my body.

Because when you pause for a second by doing this you you immediately are drawn to how you feel. You might notice some strain in your neck or a slight headache you hadn’t noticed before or that you’re a little tired even. We suppress how we feel and drown it out with these inner stories that we tell ourselves and if the inner story doesn’t feel good – then what does?

What in this moment could help you feel better – feel more present? And this feeling better isn’t about ignoring everything else- in positive psychology they’ve proven that when you feel good you’re more open to problem solving and seeing solutions that you just can’t see when you’re focused on negativity. So you’re not doing it to get out of all human feelings – you’re doing it to increase your capacity to feel and to grow. 

Focus – narrow in on what feels good to you. There’s a helpful practice that you can do in the moment or ahead of time. You all know how much of a fan I am of preparation and being prepared because, “preparation precedes power” and it’s so true. So while you’re thinking about what’s coming this week, what potential triggers you might encounter, what potential road blocks you might meet along the way you can prepare for these and arm yourself with power so that you won’t get pulled into a negative spiral.

This practice is called the focus wheel and it’s really easy to do but it’s packed with power and potential. If you’re doing this ahead of time and I mean ahead of whatever the potential trigger could be – whether that’s a person, hosting, traveling, an event, something you want or need to do – anything that you’re already feeling some negativity or non-productive thoughts about then you’ll take that and draw a circle in the middle of your paper.

In that circle write the trigger. For example, We just celebrated Christmas and with all that possibly many triggering moments. So write one aspect of that in the circle – this isn’t the model so you don’t need to write a specific circumstance. This is just helping you ease your focus from a non-productive view to a more productive, feel good view.

So for Christmas you could write something like, “gifts” – there’s a lot of mental chatter around gifts. And generally we feed into those thoughts and we vent to others and others vent back to us and pretty soon we’re filled with lots of thoughts and not feel good or productive ones and it’s not helpful.

So instead off of that circle in the middle of your paper you’re going to  draw lines out to each corner – like a big x but they don’t intersect in the middle because of the circle that you’ve already drawn. Make sense?

From there you’ll draw two more lines in each of those segments – basically you’re drawing a big sun on your paper – that’s pretty much what it looks like – and I’ll post a picture – you can google this – this is not my original creation but I do love the impact it can have. 

So by this point you should have 12 spaces to fill in. In each of these spaces you’re going to write down 12 things that help you focus on what feels good.  We’re so quick to list all the things that don’t feel good but this time we want to shift that to basically, what else is true?

So back to the gift example. I’ve heard thoughts like:

Gifts are hard

I never know if they’ll even like them

They’re looked disappointed 

I knew they wouldn’t like it

It cost a lot of money

There’s always so many people I have to buy for

I don’t like getting things I’m not going to use

I don’t like getting things and being reminded how little they know about me

Gifts are so commercialized now

It takes away from the purpose of the holiday

It makes a mess

It’s uncomfortable to open gifts in front of people 

I’m sure many can relate to these thoughts, right? That maybe you experienced some or many of these recently yourself. And notice, these thoughts don’t feel good, they open you up to insecurity and wobbly ground. And it will change how you show up, how you think about the gift giver or receiver, how you feel about the future and next time.

And check – in – is that how you want to feel?

If not, then we want to focus on what feels good.

Think about the car – out of one window you have all of these thoughts and the whole story that accompanies them but out of the other window, there’s more options and more possibilities and that’s what this wheel helps us to see and get to.

On paper, you can be more thoughtful and articulate. I’ll walk you though how to do this in the moment as well but on paper we can get really clear about why we do what we do and if we even want to continue thinking this or participating in this. Maybe you get to the point where you like your reasons enough to not participate and be okay with that because you feel confident in your beliefs about it – and confidence feels good! And that’s what we want – to feel good, to feel secure, to feel certain and confident.

So in your boxes you’ll start to just ask the question – if I think gifts are hard and that doesn’t feel good – then what does feel good to you?

And again, the goal isn’t to get to happy per se. The goal is to find a belief that feels good to you. Here are some thoughts that I like and resonate with. These thoughts feel good to me – not necessarily happy but purposeful and generous? absolutely.

Gifts act as an expression of my friendship and good will towards another human being. 

It’s not about the gift, it’s about the giver.

The purpose of a gift is to be received – after that point, the gift has served it’s purpose and you’re not obligated to keep it. That’s a thought from Marie Kondo and it’s helped me on numerous occasions. You don’t have to keep gifts that don’t spark joy for you. The purpose of the gift was to be received and hey, it has been and that exchange can spark joy and that’s enough.

Gifts don’t disappoint people – their thoughts do – I don’t have to take responsibility for their thoughts and feelings.

And you’d just keep going in this kind of manner – focusing on thoughts that do feel good so when gift time comes around you have 12 supportive believable thoughts that can carry you through feeling good the whole time. It creates purpose and joy and meaning – all things that feel good for you. 

And just notice the difference that this practice would make for you. When you’re spinning in your negative, non-productive thoughts you don’t feel good and it changes how you show up whereas having these concrete thoughts in your tool box when it comes time to open gifts you’ll feel differently which changes how you show up in that moment.

It’s night and day. Those other thoughts are still true – or they can be true and you can work through those whenever you want to but it’s not going to taint or put a damper on the present moment and your ability to feel good now.

Triggers are called triggers because oftentimes it’s not a predictable event. It’s something quick that opens this mental box with a lot of non-productive thoughts in it. These are the in the moment triggers. Again, we don’t ignore our triggers. We want to understand them but you can’t get into that space, that aware, curious, open space without feeling good now. When you don’t feel good your body shifts into protection mode and there’s no growth happen when your body is armed for protection. 

It’s like, there’s danger a foot. Something bad is eminent! We must close up, shut down and pull all our resources to defend. This is why it’s so important to shift the focus back to productivity and feeling good. So in the moment – mentally draw out your focus wheel. What’s the problem? What does your brain think is the problem? And put that mentally in the center of your circle.

When we articulate what’s bothering us it already relieves a load of pressure because you’re not going against this ominous blob of a being. There’s specific something that you can target and work with. So you want to name the problem or what your brain thinks is the problem.

Then from there you’re just going to ask yourself, what else is true? What would feel good in this moment? And oftentimes you guys, it’s gratitude. There is always, always, always many somethings to be grateful for. It doesn’t erase the trigger and we don’t want or need it to – we just need to get back into a safe space so that we can look at and start to question the trigger without feeling threatened by it.

Omar Brownson, he’s works with Simon Sinek to teach the gratitude class he says,

“The brain has a biological bias to see the negative…Gratitude is an intentional practice to disrupt those habits. Each time you pause to notice gratitude, you rewire the brain. You create new neural pathways so you’re less likely to react to stress and uncertainty in unhealthy ways and you unearth a new perspective. Noticing is a practice. Gratitude begins with noticing good.”

Noticing, being aware of, changing your focus all begins with a desire to see something else.

What else is true? What else is there? What else could that mean? What else is available to me? What else can I think? How else can I feel?

You’re not trying to ignore what your brain thinks is bad. You’re trying to shift the focus to feeling good because when you’re feeling good you’re in a much better state to go about problem solving. Who would you rather have on your team to work on a challenge? Someone who has an agenda to see one negative thing after another? Or the person that feels good that brings more light and insight into it?

That’s what you’re trying to achieve – creating a safe space for you to be more you – the you at your core, the feel good, bright light that you are.

So if you can’t fill your focus wheel mentally with 12 good things about the person or the circumstance that you currently think isn’t good – don’t try. Don’t force yourself to do anything you’re not ready or wanting to do. But you can fill it with other things around you that you are grateful for and then you can focus, narrow in on, concentrate on, and intentionally draw closer to those things.

For example, one of my go-to’s is just to think, I’m here in mortality to increase my capacity to feel.

Even if that means in that moment I’m experiencing a negative emotion – that helps me to increase my capacity for joy, for meaning, for purpose, or to find and create those. That feels good to me. It helps me problem solve through it instead of resisting it and stammering.

You can start listing “in this moment” thoughts. 

In this moment, I am alive

In this moment, I can see – find something beautiful to look at – light, electricity, the sky, a painting, nature, your surroundings.

Challenge yourself to go through your senses and in this moment I can see, I can feel, I can touch, I can hear, I can smell

And then go into as much detail as you can about it. If you’re at a gathering maybe you can smell the home fragrance, etc. Focus on it, picture it, savor it, concentrate on it because you know what this practice is doing?

Shifting your focus from what is creating the negative feeling in the first place to a more productive, better feeling for you which again, changes how you’re able to show up and what you’re able to create or to experience.

When you focus on what feels good, the good gets even better. The goal isn’t to be in a space where everything is perfect or that you have the perfect holiday, the goal is to find and to look for the things you want in every place.  Because that means you can be anywhere, with anyone, at any time and prove to yourself that you can find and create peace, love, abundance, and joy for yourself.

It’s not the circumstances that create how you feel – it’s your thoughts about them. Learn this practice and skill of shifting your focus to what feels good and then narrow in on it. Expand that thought. Enlarge it in your mind and notice how good that practice feels. Notice the joy that comes with that practice. And notice what opportunities and experiences you open up when you do this.

This practice is amazing and will help you create a purposeful and meaningful life. Focus on what feels good which means turning your focus to what do I really want? How do I want to feel? What else is true for me?  You don’t have to wait to feel good. You can feel good now. You can focus on the good now.

Okay, catalysts! Have an amazing week. I’ll talk to you all next week!

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