Stress Solving Secret #3: Focus on Solutions, Not on Problems

positive thinkingHere is a simple truth that I learned many years ago— we magnify what we focus our attention on. There are many applications of this principle, but in relationship to stress, it means that if we focus too much attention on the problems in our lives, we will simply generate more problems.  I have noticed, for instance, that people who are always talking about the problems in the world, seem to attract an unusual number of personal problems and setbacks into their personal lives.

Positive thinking is extremely helpful for managing stress. As we've already stated, much of the stress we experience we create for ourselves by not living in the present moment.  Negative thinking is another way we create stress for ourselves.Negative thinking is simply focusing our mental energy and attention onto what is wrong and what we don't want. In contrast, positive thinking is simply focusing our attention on what is right and what we do want. It's as simple as that.

Now, some people mistake positive thinking for magical thinking. Magical thinking is believing that all your problems with just disappear if you only think positively. I can't tell you how many times someone has accused me of negative thinking because I just stated the facts of the present circumstance accurately. Accepting what is isn't being negative, it's being realistic. And pretending a problem doesn't exist by trying to mentally deny it won't make it magically disappear.

Start by Getting Real...

So, whatever problems or troubles you're experiencing, admit them to yourself, and accept the fact that you're experiencing them.  Just as the first step to recovering from drug or alcohol addiction is to admit you're addicted, the first step to dealing with stressful circumstances in our life (after pausing and taking a deep breath and returning to the present moment, of course) is to admit what's happening.  Instead of saying, “No, this can't be happening to me,” say, “Yes, this is what is happening to me.

”If you're up to your eyeballs in debt, start by accepting that fact.  If you just lost your job or your home, accept the fact.  If you're feeling depressed, admit it to yourself. If your relationship is in trouble, accept that, too. The sooner you admit it, more quickly you can shift your focus from the problem to the solution.

But, once you've identified the problem, turn your thinking around.  Don't start thinking, I don't want this. Instead, think, “This is where I'm at, but where do I want to be?” Start asking yourself questions like, “What do I want?”  “What's the solution?” “What could I do right now that would help me change my circumstances?

I once read a definition of insanity that I believe to be true, even though it means I've been insane a few times in my life. The definition is this, “Making the same choices or doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different outcome.

”Most of us are insane about some aspects of our lives.  We want to continue to be able to do whatever we want and then expect to get the outcome we want, too. This is like planting wheat seeds and trying to reap a crop of corn through prayer or positive thinking.  It doesn't work.

Positive thinking isn't believing that thinking will magically solve your problems. It's actually just faith, which means believing that there are solutions to our problems and that we are capable of finding and implementing them.  This is my form of positive thinking and I find it really works.

...Then Look for Solutions

When I realize I have a problem (and sometimes after I've gone through my little bout of stress and feeing sorry for myself) my positive thinking starts kicking in.  I believe that God can help me find answers.  So, I start praying for guidance and start looking for the knowledge and skills I need to fix the problem.

I also look for mentors, people with track records of success in achieving what I want to achieve. If I don't know a good mentor personally, then I at least find books written by good mentors. I then start implementing or trying out their suggestions. I practice the techniques that seem to work and discard the ones that don't.

Often, in the process, I will find stories that inspire me with hope.  For example, Dan Kennedy wrote about a man named George Haylings in his Gold Letter.  His story is very inspiring to me. George Haylings lived in a “tent city” during the depression. He did research at the local library and wrote little books on his manual typewriter like “How to Make Money at Home” and “Hidden Dollars.” He became a millionaire during the depression.  I found an article about him on the internet you might enjoy.  Click here to read it.

George didn't prosper during the depression by sitting on his behind and “thinking positively.”  He combined positive thinking with skillful action.  When you learn to change your focus from taking about problems to searching for and testing solutions, that's when you are really “thinking positively.

Next: Stress Solving Secret #4: Cultivate a Gratitude Attitude