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Two years ago, we were looking for a Toyota Camry for our second daughter. Then, suddenly, I see them everywhere. It was strange to me how many more there seemed to be around than usual. There probably wasn’t an increase in Toyota Camry sales, but this is an excellent example of how we find what we are looking for.

What we see depends mainly on what we look for. Therefore, we find what we are looking for.

Concept Backed by Science

Our brains have millions of bits of information to sort through each day. Therefore, it creates filters to help with the workload. According to a post titled, The Science Behind Why You ‘Attract’ What You Focus On, “we form this filter ourselves by telling our brain (whether consciously or subconsciously) what’s important to us, what we believe, what we fear, and what we’re focused on.” Over time, we create more of what we focus on through this process, and we find what we are looking for.

Your brain filters all the information it processes for things you are focused on, think is important, and validate your beliefs. So, as our brains filter all the data, it will only present the things that you find essential. Two people can view the same situation entirely differently because of this. Everyone’s version of reality is unique because our experiences and belief systems shape the brain uniquely through a process called neuroplasticity. 

Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to adapt to changes in an individual’s environment by forming new neural connections. The brain goes through structural and functional changes when you have new experiences. Neurons communicate with each other using electromechanical signals. Communication is strengthened through repetitive, memory-forming cognitive functions. For example, when studying for a test, practicing an instrument for a recital, and doing affirmations by repeating ideas or thoughts in your mind.

In your day to day, are you looking for what is going wrong or what is going right? Are you looking for the positive in every situation, or are you looking for the negative? When you are pessimistic and continuously thinking negative thoughts, you have trained your brain to present only the negative data. However, if you are optimistic and positive, your brain will offer you solutions instead of problems, good news instead of bad and good people instead of awful people. 

“We find what we are looking for in life, her father had once said to her, which was true—if you look for happiness, you will see it; if you look for distrust and envy and hatred—all those things—you will find those too.”

― Alexander McCall Smith 

The Full Cupboard of Life

We Can Re-train Our Brains to Find What We Are Looking For

The good news is that we can change the parameters through which our brains filter our lives. We can re-train our brains to find what we are looking for. I used to worry about what I couldn’t control. I’m not saying that I don’t worry now, but I fear much less and shorter periods. Before I dove all-in with my commitment to personal growth, about seven years ago, there was a lot of anger, yelling, and frustration aimed at the people I love most. I was processing some significant and unexpected changes in my life, and honestly, I didn’t handle it all that well. It disappointed me when the plans we made and worked extremely hard for didn’t pan out. We took a gamble in our business, and we lost.

We Are Always Evolving

Over time and with practice, I’ve learned to process change faster. I accepted we are all evolving. I do my best to adapt to each situation as it arises. Being sad and depressed because things didn’t work out the way I planned is simply a waste of my time. I tell my girls that it’s okay to be upset when they make a mistake or do poorly on a test.

They have 48 hours to be frustrated and angry with themselves for the error, not preparing, or whatever the reason, it upset them. But that’s it. They are only allowed to criticize themselves or be mad about that situation for a limited time. Once it is official that we can do nothing to change the problem, it is time to process and feel our sad, angry, and mad emotions. Then it is time to accept it and let it go. Worrying doesn’t change the past; all it does is rob you of any joy you may have today.  

We Learn From Our Experiences

I believe everything happens for a reason, and I am grateful for my struggles because they brought me to this moment. A moment where I feel safe in my skin and confident enough to be vulnerable and share my thoughts with each of you. I work daily to re-train my brain to find what I’m looking for. I may not have reached this point without all the lessons I’ve learned over the years. Each one taught me something that made me a happier, mentally healthier, better person. Without these experiences, I may not have the incredible amount of empathy, compassion, and understanding for those struggling in similar ways.

Today is day seven of being home from work because of the ice/snow from an arctic blast we just experienced here in Jonesboro. I was remoting into the office and clicked on an incorrect document, not once, but twice. I was annoyed with myself, and in the past, I would have berated myself and said some horrible things to myself like, “What is your deal, Juliana? Are you even paying attention? Are you smart? You already made that mistake – twice – LEARN!!” 

But you know what I did? I laughed. 

Yep. I laughed out loud with a big fat HA! As I discussed in Celebrate Your Wins, I am working to re-train my brain to be kinder to myself. Today was proof that it’s working! I laughed, then I thought, WOW! I’m making progress, and I am becoming more like the person I want to be when I grow up. If I can do it, then you can do it. I’ve survived an incredible amount of emotional pain, and the best way I’ve found to thrive is to choose a positive outlook. 

Focus Creates Feeling

According to Tommy Newberry in 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life, “at any given moment, you can choose to pay attention to what’s present or what’s missing, what’s working or what’s broken, what’s possible and what’s impossible, and what excites you or what frightens you. And in so doing, you will win or lose the battle for your mind.” He says that if your emotional life is not where you want it to be today, then your top priority should be shifting your attention to your blessings, strengths, and aspects of your life that are working. “You WILL experience a deficit of joy when you allocate a surplus of attention to the things that dissatisfy you.”

Since our lives tend to imitate the thoughts that we entertain most consistently, then doesn’t it make sense to focus on what is going right more than what is going wrong? Our focus determines our feelings. So, it’s no wonder that we are always unhappy about our circumstances if we are always complaining. “We condition our minds to value what we read, watch, study, discuss and ponder. What absorbs our interests shapes how we think. Whatever holds our attention molds our intention. What we contemplate, we internalize. What we internalize, we emotionalize. The more frequently we think about something, the tighter the grip it exerts on us, the decisions we make, and the actions we take. Whatever we idolize shapes our character. You always feel what you focus on.”

Core Beliefs

Our brains filter information based on our experiences, inferences, and deductions or accepting what others tell us is true. Most of our core beliefs form when we are children. Our parents and environment play a big part in molding our beliefs from a very young age. They teach us right from wrong and what is true or false, and these standards help us create our belief system. 

Sadly, we are not all taught how much control we have over finding what we are looking for. Our minds are powerful, and we must train them for good and not harmful. The best news is that we can alter the way we experience life for the better. As Bob Samara coaches, when we carefully choose to feed our minds pure, positive, powerful, and productive thoughts and information, there is no room for negativity. 

Eliminating the harmful, hateful, and negative thoughts and replacing them with optimistic, curious, and positive thoughts takes practice and repetition, but I promise it is worth the effort. Maybe you are in your late-30s when you learn about the ability you have to train your brain. Perhaps you learned as a teen, like my children. Maybe you are learning how to re-train your brain at 70 years young. It doesn’t matter when you start; working to improve your mindset every day you are blessed to be alive is essential.