One of the things I consistently tell my clients is that what I ask them to do between sessions will be simple, but not easy. The simple request I make, is to notice things getting better for them, notice the hopes they came into therapy to move towards, becoming a reality for them. And they always leave understanding that request and seemingly ready to go and pay attention, and yet when they come back in, they tell me it’s harder than they thought it would be. When I ask them, “What have you noticed?” or ” What’s been better?”, most of the time they struggle to answer, at least for a minute or two. And of course it’s hard.
We are taught from as early as kindergarten, to pay more attention to what we get wrong than to what we get right. If you picture a graded test, what do you see in your mind’s eye? Red x’s, right? Red ink pointing out the things wrong on the paper. From the time we start to learn how to learn, we are taught to focus on what we get wrong, and to then correct it. And in school, that might be quite useful, (although there’s a whole longer argument that maybe we can do that better, too.), but in relationships, with others & with ourselves, I believe doing the exact opposite is a MUCH quicker way to learn and thus get better.
When we focus on what we do right, we notice the impact it makes on our relationships right then and there. And in the moment, where, say, what might have been a huge argument turns instead into a useful conversation that you can build on and evolve from, if you NOTICE it going well, you can take note of HOW you did it, and what the person you love did in return to help it go so well, and in seeing how you succeeded, you’ve made a bit of a blueprint for yourself for how to keep it going in the future.
So, with your spouse, kids, parents, siblings, friends, and with yourself, I ask you to simply ignore the red ink. Ignore what you get wrong, and instead, pay CLOSE attention to what you and they get right, and HOW you got it right. And even, (especially if it’s your kids), tell them when they get it right, and watch that habit create for them, the ability to get it right more and more.
The good thing about it being simple but not easy, is that with practice, it becomes easier and easier, so then, one day, it’s both simple and easy, and thus, incredibly rewarding.
Here’s to focusing on the right answers for a change,