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Blogging on how to use behavioural science to make behaviour more likely

We become what we pay attention to

July 23, 2018

 

3 min read: I’m sure you have heard the phrase, “you are what you eat” but how often do we consider that we are what we focus on. This applies to our thoughts and also our behaviours. It’s like a self fulfilling prophecy type thing. Negative thoughts can grow and grow if they are fuelled by, well, our thinking. It’s the same with positive thoughts, it’s not the thought, it’s what we do with them, how we tend to them.

 

We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves. – Buddha

 

Unfortunately however, our brain tends to lean towards the negative when idling. It’s possibly an evolutionary survival trait, thinking about danger more than safe situations, thinking about negative more than positive possibilities. You can see how this might be beneficial in a cut throat hunter gathering world.

 

Nowadays however, we don’t have to spend that much time worrying about the possibility of being eaten by that sloth of bears and for most, we know when our next meal will come from. Negative thoughts probably helped to keep us alive by motivating us to do something to make them go away. They have their place. We can learn to recognise them, embody them and let them go. We can practice being present. We can learn to direct our focus to what we are experiencing in the moment rather than being consumed by negative thoughts.

 

We become what we direct our thoughts to. Let ourselves be caught up by the negative or get caught up in the present. The thing with the present is that it is usually quite good. More than that, if we look, the present is really quite beautiful. There is so much to see and discover in the moment now, but most of the time we miss it because we are so preoccupied with our thoughts.

 

Our brain’s structure changes depending upon what we focus on. Every time we focus on a particular ‘thing’ we strengthen the neural pathways connected with that thought and our brain becomes ‘stronger’ regarding that area. Like a muscle. That muscle then needs more feeding the bigger it becomes. The more it’s fed, the bigger – the bigger, the more it needs to be fed.

 

We can chose what we feed our brains. We can feed them more of the beauty and wonder from the present or we can feed then more of the negative worry or an imagined future or past. This also applies to what we watch, read, listen to. Who we spend time with, what we spend time gossiping about. Think social media, TV, hobbies, work. There are better and worse types of food for our brain in all of these areas. We become what we focus on.

 

Where you focus is what you are.

 

 

 

 

bob@sodak.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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