What you focus on grows
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
The other night, our family gathered after a long day with Chinese take out and a movie in hand. We were all ready for a couple of hours of complete down time. As we were setting up the TV trays and bringing the food downstairs, I said more times than I can count, “Watch the food, don’t spill, be careful.” I was becoming fairly annoying by anyone’s standards. My kids are at the age now, however, that they have a great ability to completely ignore me. So I mumble to myself about how angry I will be when the first plate dumps. Seconds after having this thought, I spilled the egg drop soup, yes the entire container, yellow with corn and dyes that don’t go well with new cream carpet. How, I wonder, was it me that spilled, I was totally focusing on steady and slow motions. I was the one who had told everyone over and over not to do exactly what I ended up doing. Maybe that was the problem. I was too focused on spilling, staining the carpet and the irritating clean-up. While my kids were blissfully ignoring me and focused on eating and watching a movie, I wasn’t.
What we focus on grows. What we pay attention to becomes reality. The flaws we notice in ourselves, our kids, our partners, soon become what we define them by. What a powerful concept. On a daily basis, YouthZone has families walk through our doors with a focus, and not always a positive one. The parents are frustrated with their kids, the kids are angry with their parents. Everyone is focused on the negative. Parents will say, “I am so angry with Sally, she is irresponsible and selfish.” When comments are made like that, and if we agree that what we focus on grows, guess what, Sally just got a little more selfish and irresponsible. Or at least that is the behavior that the parents will choose to define Sally by.
At YouthZone, we try to stay focused on the strengths of youth and families. Either through parent or youth coaching, groups or counseling, kids are hearing that they are strong and kind. When those behaviors get noticed and rewarded, then kids become even stronger and kinder. They start seeing themselves as strong. They will act and behave in a way that supports that belief. So the next time you are with your family and you notice something positive, comment on it, nothing huge, just simply – “I noticed that you were on time for your curfew, you are so responsible and thoughtful, thank you.”
We have a choice, to either focus on the positive things others do and watch that behavior grow or we can choose to see only when others or ourselves fall short. We can choose to be inspired by the goodness in others and ourselves or to be frustrated by their weakness. It’s our choice. For me, next time the Chinese food arrives, I will stay focused on eating and nothing else.
– Lori Mueller is program director for YouthZone
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