Do you tend to replay negative interactions in your mind over and over again? Do obsess over moments that don’t go your way and sit there bemoaning the ways you should have responded?
If you’re someone who can’t seem to let go of awkward situations, then stick around . . . because today, we’re going to be learning about a simple mental shift that will finally allow you to focus your attention in a way that’s going to serve you far better.
What we’re going to touch on today is what I like to call “problem focus.” This is when you take any event and obsessively pick it apart to discover what went wrong—and It can happen at work, parties, small gatherings, and even on dates.
The real issue with problem focus is that we often take the conclusions we draw from one experience and globalize them to categorize ourselves as generally hopeless.
For instance, we might think, “Ugh, that was awkward when I didn’t get that joke.” But then, instead of leaving it at that, we add on, “I have the worst sense of humor.”
Even in the case of one isolated incident, we take that incident and run loops in our heads about what a mess we are and the myriad ways in which we need to be better. This pattern of thought is soul-crushing—you leave one party, and by the time you get home, you’re totally demoralized.
This problem, however, is all in your head . . . and it’s all because of your focus.
When any event happens, good or bad, we can either choose to focus on all of our faults, or we can choose to focus on future possibilities.
As you sit here considering these options, the answer might seem obvious, but there is some real psychology behind our urge to choose the negative route. Subconsciously, we believe that picking ourselves apart is going to help us learn—that we’re going to become better people and avoid messiness and discomfort in the future.
We get so entwined in this logic (which is incredibly flawed) that we beat ourselves up day after day . . . yet nothing ever changes.
Here’s the real problem: when we do something over and over again, it becomes habit.
You know that feeling when you go to an amusement park, ride roller coasters all day, and then fall asleep and continue to feel the motion of the roller coaster? Your brain is continuing to fire in the same way because you’ve established a pattern it can attach itself to.
When you engage in a thought pattern day after day, month after month, the same thing will happen . . . and you won’t even notice you’re doing it because the neural pathways have been set.
So, step one is to notice the behavior and realize that it’s not serving you.
Step two is to focus on the opportunity.
When you catch yourself jumping back into replay mode, start by cutting the pattern off: “Whoa, I’m replaying again. I don’t need to do that.”
This will feel unsettling at first, but don’t give in! Just relax, breathe, and know that you don’t have to think about that situation to make yourself better.
Then, you want to dismiss whatever issue you were going to address. Maybe you just had a bad day; maybe you were tired; maybe you ate something funny—who knows?
No matter what you do, you must be secure in the fact that this one moment does not define you.
Next, you’ll want to open up some space in your mind for opportunity: did you meet someone at the party you’d like to hang out with again; did you learn something new that you’d like to research more; did you pick up some tricks for throwing a great party?
You can even go beyond this and focus on the opportunities right in front of you in that moment. Is there another party you could stop at? Is there a friend you could connect to with a phone call or text? Is there a good book you’ve been meaning to finish?
There is no opportunity too small to latch onto, especially in moments when we want to occupy our mental energy with something positive, rather than dwelling on negative moments that don’t matter.
You don’t need to spend any more mental or emotional energy solving problems that don’t really exist. Your social connections will get better over time (and you will be much closer to getting what you really want in life) if you simply focus on the opportunities that life has to offer.
So, what are the moments that tend to drag you into replay mode? What opportunities do you focus on when you get stuck, and how does that shift in mental energy serve you in that moment and in life? Let’s share our experiences here so that we can continue to learn from each other as a community. As always, I also invite you to subscribe so that you can keep up to date on the latest videos as they’re released.
Until we speak again, may you have the courage to be who you are and to know on a deep level that you’re awesome.
Latest posts by Dr. Aziz (see all)
- You’re Going To Fail - December 13, 2018
- How To Ask Out Someone With Social Anxiety – Dr. Aziz Q&A - December 11, 2018
- But I Keep Getting Rejected! – Q&A with Dr. Aziz - November 29, 2018