A few decades back, well known psychology professor and then head of the American Psychological Association, Martin Seligman, began to champion a novel approach to treating patients.
Rather than focusing all of your energy on fixing what’s wrong with your life, he asked:
What might happen if you focused instead on the sole quest to identify, then grow what was right?
From this simple question evolved an approach to therapy termed Positive Psychology. And, now the entire approach has many more champions, often arguing it’s more effective than classical approaches with a focus on identifying what’s wrong, deconstructing the pain, getting to the root, modifying behavior, then rebuilding (not my domain to decide).
I’ve done a fair bit of investigating into this approach and, for me, it resonates with the way I move past obstacles and emotional trials.
Not, just emotional/psychological roadblocks, though. It seems to work in the physical environment, too.
In fact, there’s an interesting analogy to mountain biking here. As a newbie rider, when you see an obstacle on the trail, most people focus entirely on the obstacle in an effort to avoid hitting it. Problem is, when you do that, you’ve got about 100% chance of hitting it dead on, even though that’s the last thing you want to do.
Your actions conspire to make your body track your vision.
Even if you don’t want it to. You may have experienced this phenomenon driving at night. The car in front of you starts to veer out of lane and you find yourself following it, even though you know it’s not your intended path.
So, let’s get back on the trail and try a different approach…
When you’re riding, if you see the obstacle, acknowledge it’s there, keep it in your vision, but then re-shift your focus past it, an odd thing happens. Your body and neural pathways take over and somehow intuitively find a way through. Not always (as my scratched helmet evidences), but far more often than if you’d focused on the obstacle.
I can’t explain how or why it works. And, it takes a big leap of faith to be able to draw your attention down the path and trust you’ll get through. But, when you buy into the method, you find yourself able to ride through so much that would have stifled you before.
There is a big but, though (that’s “but,” not “butt” btw!)…
This rarely happens in the early days of learning to ride. Even if you do develop the habit of identifying, acknowledging, then looking past.
Because, in order to get to the place where your body, intuition, neural training and subconscious problem-solving abilities can take over and guide you through, they need to have been developed the skills, control and physical mastery needed to carve your way through. And, that’s something that only happens with extensive, deliberate practice over time.
So, in the end…
It’s not enough to look past the obstacles and shoot for the ultimate goal.
You also have to invest in the time to build a level of skills, experiences and mastery that can be accessed on an often less-than-conscious level when the tough stuff comes flying at you down the road.
That’s the point where your ability to focus past the obstacles and have faith takes on real value and serves as a more effective guide to move closer to what you want.
Vision, intention and desire, alone, won’t get you there.
They matter, but there’s simply no alternative to time in the game.
So, what do YOU think?