Focus on what you DO want...

Aim for what you want - not what you don't want!

This is the time of year (written in January 2008) when lots of people commit to New Year Resolutions - despite the fact that early January is usually (according to the media) regarded as the gloomiest time of the year in these Northern parts.

It's when many of us decide it’s time for a new start - we’ve had enough of the old ways! So we use our NLP skills to come up with a great To Do list for the next year.

Yet, all too soon, we’re back to the old ways often in a matter of weeks or even days.

What went wrong?

Why? Well, obviously there can be many reasons but a key one is that many of us focus on the "no more of the old ways" bit.  New Year Resolutions all-too-often focus on what we don't want rather than on what we do want.

Yes, we may be aiming to 'drive our bus' - but it may not be in the right direction!

Wrong direction

The mental images we dwell have a powerful effect on us. And thinking about what you don't  want focuses your mind on... what you don't want!

  • Decide I won't eat fattening food such as cakes or chips – and soon your mind is full of images of such foods
  • ...I must stop smoking – you begin noticing cigarettes everywhere, thinking about smoking - and fuelling your craving for niocotine
  • ...I won't be irritated about their behaviour - and you'll become fixated on their mannerisms
  • I don’t want to feel jealous… and the jealous images will plague you
  • I don’t want to be overweight or unfit…. and images or being overweight and unfit will fill your mind.

What you dwell upon affects your mood

Having a goal of ‘not’ doing something is a sure way of keeping images of what you don’t want in your mind!  This is an essential ingredient in the NLP process of designing goals or outcomes - and is also something which we explore in some detail in our NLP Core Skills course.)

For example, you may wish to loose weight but have a liking for yummy food. Trying to “not” think about this type of food evokes images. These images create a craving for the yummy food.

Similarly, the more you try to fight the smoking habit the more obsessed you’re likely to become with cigarettes.

The more you try to "not" feel angry or jealous the more angry or jealous you’re likely to become.

The answer? Think of what you DO want...

Instead of focusing on what we want to achieve we’re focusing on what we want to put behind us – but by continuing to focus on it we keep it in front of us. Which is why New Year resolutions like other ‘new starts’ and good intentions end so swiftly!

It's the "don't think of the blue rhinoceros" phenomenon.

Try it: close your eyes and decide that under no circumstances will you think of a blue rhinoceros. As you do this reinforce it by affirming to yourself "I won't think of a blue rhinoceros".

And, of course, the more you try to not think of it the more and stronger you make the thought. The more you focus on what you don't want the more you become fixated or even obsessed with it - and that's one of the things which we learn from using NLP to understand how our thoughts and our emotions affect one another.

The solution?

Begin thinking about what you want instead!

  • Instead of ‘I mustn’t overeat’: Perhaps eating healthily and sensibly.  Or eating just enough to alleviate hunger.  Or eating healthier foods.
  • Instead of ‘I want to give up cigarettes’:  You might want to enjoy the freedom of being an ex-smoker who breathes easily, has clear airways and smells clean.
  • Instead of ‘I won’t get so angry’: Maybe you’d like to be able to rise above the issues, to be able to ignore what you perceive as others’ pettiness or thoughtlessness. Or to be able to see through the other person’s anger-provoking ploys.
  • Instead of ‘I don’t want to feel nervous or panicky? Focus on how you’d like to be handling stressful situations e.g. feeling calmer, breathing easily, thinking more clearly.

Developing the habit

Get into the habit of noticing which mental images your thinking is evoking. Recognise that these mental images are affecting your feelings. And, if necessary, change what you’re focussing on.

Many of us have been brought up in a world of “don’t do’s” so switching from focussing on what you don’t want to what you do want will take a little bit of attention – for a few weeks, at least! This approach is not a magic fix or panacea but it’s a very important start to driving your own bus.

The old saying ‘be careful what you set your mind upon for surely it will be yours’ has quite a a bit of truth in it.



More articles on NLP and Goals or Outcomes

On this site

The NLP goal-designing method

The Pegasus NLP PECSAW method

NLP Goals or Dreams (1)

NLP Goals or Dreams (2)

NLP Goals and how to avoid regret

The ‘future on wheels’ pattern

NLP Goals and archery

NLP and the need to focus on what you DO want!

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