Overwhelmed? Stuck? Try this.
Life's challenges can seem overwhelming at times.
Major health challenges, loss of a job, a relationship breakup, seemingly insurmountable financial pressures, a new arrival in the family, a devastating injury, and a whole host of other planned and unplanned, wanted and unwanted events can send you into a nosedive from which there seems no escape.
And when we add several of these events into the mix, all at the same time, it is easy to reach the conclusion that the entire universe is conspiring against us in an effort to make our life as stressful as possible.
On top of all these pressures are important goals we are striving to achieve – have to achieve – and yet we seem completely unable to focus on them and cannot wrest our attention away from the relentless pressure of seemingly insurmountable challenges.
What do we do? How do we concentrate on what we need to do when every nerve-ending in our body is screaming with the angst of despair and helplessness that is weighing us down?
While I'm sure there are many answers to this question, I only know of one.
You may remember our past discussions regarding the limitations on our ability to focus on more than one thing at a time. We simply can't do it.
The moment we bring something new into our focus, the current object of our focus disappears.
This is extremely good news, because it informs us that while we are intensely focused on the activities necessary to achieve our goals, we cannot simultaneously focus on any of the other stress-bearing events affecting our lives.
Easier said than done? Yes, it is. However, there is a simple method, easily accessible by all, which will go a long way in helping us stay focused on those things that help us rise up rather than those things that pull us down.
There are three questions that, when asked, cause us to examine the object of our present focus and then evaluate to determine whether to retain that object of our focus or select another.
In each moment, the entirety of our existence is centered on the object of our focus. When we are thinking of the task at hand, we're not thinking of working out at the gym; when we are thinking of what to have for dinner, we are not thinking about our kid’s soccer game; when we are thinking about next vacation destination, we are not thinking of buying a new house.
Once we train ourselves to frequently ask these three questions, we quickly learned that our thoughts and emotions are formed in our heads and hearts and not by the circumstances we find ourselves in.
Question 1: "What am I focusing on right now?" This causes us to pause and examine our thoughts in that moment.
Question 2: "Is this (the topic of our focus) helping me move closer towards, or further away from where I want to be?" This question establishes direction. If the answer tells us the object of my focus is moving us towards where we wish to be, clearly the best choice is to continue doing so.
If, on the other hand, the answer informs us that our focus is causing us to move further away from our goals, it is time to ask the last question.
Question 3: "What can I focus on right now that will move me closer to where I want to be?"
Remember this simple truth; our thoughts trigger our emotions and our emotions drive our actions. Simply put, this means that when we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed and stressed by events in our lives, we lose sight of the many choices available to us that could move us towards where we want to be, and we could utilize to improve our situation. Instead we focus on the anxiety we feel.
The moment we become solution focused, we also become aware of the positive choices available to us to select actions that nudge us towards where we to be. And when we focus on positive choices, we take positive action.
All of this serves to establish that being overwhelmed is merely the object of our focus. So too is being intensely focussed on achieving our goals.
Like so many other things, the choice is ours.
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.