Have you ever thought about getting a new vehicle (truck, car, boat or motorcycle) and all of a sudden you start seeing that dream vehicle everywhere you go? There are way more of them on the road or in the water than you previously noticed? Somehow, your focus determines your reality.
The other day, I heard Mark Batterson talk about something that made this “focus determines reality” concept come alive for me. He was speaking about the reticular activating system (RAS), a short, pencil-sized piece of the brain located just above where the spinal cord is attached to the brain. It acts as the gatekeeper of information between most of our sensory systems and the conscious mind. It is the attention center in the brain. It is the key to “turning on your brain” The RAS filters out unnecessary information so the important stuff gets through. In the same way, the RAS seeks information that validates your beliefs. I did some research and learned you can deliberately program the reticular activating system by choosing the exact messages you send from your conscious mind. For example, you can set goals, or say affirmations, or visualize your goals. It’s very fascinating to me.
In so many ways, our focus becomes our reality. If I focus on the blessings in my life, I will generally see more good things happening around me. If I focus on a negative happening in my life, I will usually see lots of other negativity in my environment. We’ve all experienced this. Our focus becomes our reality.
We’ve all met them. People who see the bad in everything. A couple weeks ago, I posted on social media a few celebrative pictures of our care team at Cape Christian saying “thank you” by delivering 120 dozen donuts to many of our frontline medical workers. Our team went to our local hospital emergency department, the medical personnel who are caring for the COVID-19 patients and about a dozen other doctor offices across our city, expressing appreciation to them for their dedicated service. In the middle of all the positive comments, an individual posted a critique about one of the pictures, questioning if the volunteers were too close to each other and possibly not properly following the social distancing rules. There was no mention of the blessings to hundreds and hundreds of medical workers. Only criticism from a negative person that didn’t even look closely at the picture. I knew the setting where the picture was taken and looked carefully to see that there was significant distance between the volunteers by the way they were staggered from back to front. But focus becomes reality. This same individual found something negative in another positive post of mine about 18 months ago. Focus becomes reality.
And then we have all met the person who sees something positive in everything. They see the dark clouds of a thunderstorm and they immediately look for the rainbow. They are like my dad who would often say on his later birthdays in his upper 80’s, “I’m not complaining about getting old, it’s a lot better than the alternative.” Henry Ford is quoted as saying, “Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you’re correct.” Focus determines reality.
This is not a new concept. Rewind back two thousand years ago and read Apostle Paul’s story and writings. He was positive in the middle of all kinds of difficulties. One particular time, while he was in jail for sharing his faith in public, Paul wrote about how to reduce anxiety and find peace in the middle of a crisis. He wrote, “So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. Follow the example of all that we have imparted to you and the God of peace will be with you in all things.” Philippians 4:8-9 (The Passion Translation). Focus determines reality.
What are you focusing on during this challenging time of a new normal? In this time of crisis, the first thing I’ve been trying to focus on is solving the new challenges that exist with all the changes. Secondly, I’m doing my best to leverage the new opportunities that this crisis brings. That’s it. Those two things. My goal isn’t to just try to survive this season. My goal is to be aware of the opportunities that will make be better on the other side. I never want to waste a crisis. There is always something to learn and there are always ways I can grow when there is pressure in my life. Pressure reveals what is on the inside. Do I like what is being revealed or is it an opportunity for growth and change? What I focus on will become my reality. And the same for you.
Blessings and Peace to You and Your Loved Ones,
QUESTION: What are some ways you have found helpful to stay positive during difficult times? We would love to learn from you. Share them in the comment section below.