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What You Focus on Expands

I’m taking a little detour off the path of real estate blogging today – in the spirit of Christmas and in the spirit of personal growth. Maybe it will inspire some New Year’s resolutions.

Recently I took a class at my brokerage focusing on personal growth, and it has done a lot to change my mindset and outlook on life, as well as giving me tools to help change my focus. The class was centered around the books: The Miracle Morning, The Happiness Advantage, and Think and Grow Rich; I’ve also read Prospect with Soul recently, which has made an impact as well. And do you know what? There was a common thread in all of these books – the idea that what you focus on in life expands, and the beliefs that you hold actually become your reality. (I highly recommend all of these books by the way! If you procrastinated and need to find good Christmas gifts – one of these would be a good option.)

Now, what does all that mean? I know it sounds all new age and hippie-ish, but did you know that positive psychology is actually a field of study? And that these ideas are supported by reputable scientific studies? In The Happiness Advantage, there are countless examples about how changing your mindset can create physical changes and measurable results. Maids who were told how much cleaning is like exercise and how many calories they were burning started losing weight, without changing their routine. A group of 75 year old men who lived as if they were 55 again for a week, surrounded by only items from that prior to that year and talking about things as if it were 1959 again, showed significant improvements in their memory, physical health, eyesight, and they even appeared younger to strangers.

What you focus on expands. What you believe is your reality.

There was a study where 13 people were told they were being rubbed with poison ivy, but it was actually a harmless plant – they all broke out in a rash and experienced poison ivy symptoms. A separate group of 13 people who were all highly allergic to poison ivy were told they were being rubbed with a harmless plant, but it was actually poison ivy – only 2 of them broke out in a rash.

Your beliefs are powerful.

Remember, you must feed the parts of your soul and your mind that will lead you to the life you dream of. It doesn’t happen passively or on accident. You must purposefully feed it. It’s not the pursuit of happiness, it is the “creation or construction of happiness.” – Sonja Lyubomirsky

Here are just a few things I’ve been working on lately as a result of the class I took and the books I’ve been reading, ways I’ve been feeding my soul. I suggest trying them for yourself, especially #2 and #5.

1. Live in the present – reconnect with the “means” and don’t be so focused on the “ends.”

If you’re reading a book for a class on a topic that you’re fascinated by – you can think of it as research or studying to meet a deadline, or you can think of it as reading for pleasure. Which one is more enjoyable? Which one allows you to absorb and retain more from your reading?

2. Be grateful and think positively -write down at least 3 specific things daily.

There is something called The Tetris Effect, named after a study performed on a large group of students who were instructed to play tetris for multiple hours a day, many days in a row, and they all started to see tetris-like shapes in their everyday life or thinking about how random objects can fit together if placed just right. The brain can be rewired to focus on different things through exposure and practice. This works for your mindset and outlook on life as well. People who have careers that require them to find mistakes or be critical of everything, such as tax auditors and lawyers, get really good and picking out what’s wrong. However, most individuals have a hard time compartmentalizing that skill to stay at work, and it affects their personal lives as well – criticizing their children for getting one C instead of congratulating them on all the A’s, pointing out other’s faults, thinking about how miserably hot it is outside instead of enjoying the sunshine. You get the point. If you purposefully write down things you are grateful for each day it forces your mind to scan through your day to find positive experiences. If you do this on a regular basis it trains your brain to look for the good things in life, creates a positive tetris effect, and actually reduces anxiety, depression, and even headaches in some people.

3. Reduce the negative self talk and believe that you have opportunities in life

There is no such thing as luck, but people who believe they are lucky and that opportunities will present themselves are more aware of those opportunities when they do arise, whereas others who are focused on the negative often pass right by the same opportunity. Be more aware of the things that you tell yourself throughout the day. Most of us say things to ourselves that we would never dream of saying to another person. So why do we do say it to ourselves?

4. Treat others how you would like to be treated

I know this one has been hammered into the ground. From these books, especially Prospect with Soul, I came away with a new perspective on it pertaining more to business. First, always assume everyone is intelligent. Don’t talk down, and let them ask questions as they arise. Second, in business use techniques that would work on you as a consumer. This is especially true in any kind of sales – if you hate people cold calling you, don’t cold call; if you don’t like answering the door to people you don’t know, don’t knock on doors; if you hate nonstop emails and marketing pieces, then don’t send them. Focus on quality interactions rather than quantity. Be genuine. And make a point of being kind to at least 10 people a day.

5. Read The Miracle Morning and incorporate it into your life

The way you start your day sets the tone for the rest of it. If you wake up after hitting snooze 7 times, running late, and scrambling to get ready and grab all your things to run out the door without breakfast, does the rest of your day go smoothly? Or are you easily agitated and annoyed for the rest of the day? Take some time to focus on you before anything else each day, and I promise it makes a difference.

If you’re curious about any of the books or studies that I’ve mentioned here, feel free to reach out to me. I would be happy to talk more about them or about how I’ve been incorporating into my life.

There is a common misconception that success creates happiness. But really it’s the other way around. “Happiness and optimism actually fuel performance and achievement.” – The Happiness Advantage.

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