Becky Bailey and her life changing work called Conscious Discipline was the first place I let this idea sink into my soul. “What you focus on, you get more of.” I have fond memories of Bailey acting out a scene that certainly happened in my own home on numerous occasions: “Stop hitting. Stop hitting. STOP HITTING!!” screamed by an out of control parent. She pointed out that in that exchange, the focus on hitting is what stays with a child. With intention, focus, and practice, I learned to say things like this: “Keep your hands on your body” Same message, different focus.
This same dynamic is true as I seek to change less than functional characteristics about myself. Crossing the threshold of a new year offers up the hope of a change in focus. I used to set grandiose goals and burn out by February. Since 2013, I have shifted the way that I seek to make change.
For each year, I choose a word or a short phrase that represents the desired shift I hope to see in my life. In 2013 and 2014, I chose the words presence and playful. After focusing on just one word per year, I did see a shift in how present I am in the moments. My posture toward my children during lots of everyday interactions did become more playful. In 2015, I chose “reflect, don’t fix” as I attempted to have healthier interactions with others, especially my kids, in the midst of their upsets and discomforts. Last year, I chose “light more candles” and I now indeed literally light more candles. In addition, the theme of darkness and light came into my consciousness over and over throughout the year.
I can’t explain how this works, but I can testify that choosing a focus and making it an intentional part of my life does shift my thoughts and behavior. I am proof of “what you focus on, you get more of.” It is an ever so subtle, gentle, and incremental process.
I have considered several possibilities for this year: curiosity and kindness made the list of contenders. But I settled on another three-word phrase. Look for beauty. In the past year, it has not been difficult for me to see ugly. That won’t change, I am sure. But I also want to seek out and participate in that which displays beauty.
As is my habit, I have changed several account passwords that I regularly use to reflect this year’s focus. I have shifted a gratitude journal to a “looking for beauty” journal and have begun to log those experiences. From the inside of a red cabbage to music during shavasana at the end of yoga to the snow falling outside my window to a sticker on the bag in which I carried home fragrant spices, beauty is all around. I imagine that this focus will surprise me and show up in unexpected places.
How about you? Do you have a new year focus? I would love to hear about it.