If We Get What We Focus on, Then …

Focus on the Good

Photo by Susan Minarik

Our world is awash in problems and while some of them are getting the attention they need, others are being ignored in favor of … contrived … issues. And this situation is irritating a growing number of people.

One of the steadiest people I know is long-time friend Susan Minarik. She runs the “Positive Living Now” blog where she focuses on what makes people happy and how we can put that information to use in practical, daily life.

So it was a surprise – actually a rather pleasant surprise – when I read her latest post. Apparently she, like you and I and many others, has just about had it with today’s rampant political correctness and issue extortionism. Let’s ask Susan to explain it herself.

Focus on the Good

Susan K. Minarik

I don’t know about you, but personally, I’m getting awfully tired of watching the violent protests that seem to be erupting almost daily around the globe. Sure, I understand that a lot of things need fixing in our world, and I appreciate dedication to promoting a worthy cause. But those who practice violence and destruction do nothing to further the betterment of our situation, especially when they utterly fail to carry any message proposing workable solutions to the problems they are railing against. What if, instead of focusing on perceived evils and shortcomings, we devoted ourselves to identifying and promoting the things that further the flourishing of humankind?

Almost 20 years ago, professional psychology asked itself the same question about its own direction. It had been focusing almost exclusively on illness and giving little attention to identifying the factors that promoted individual well-being. When it turned its attention to searching for the life-promoting traits in people, the science of positive psychology was born. And studies world-wide are now proving that we live happier, more productive, creative and satisfying lives when we focus on building our strengths than we do when we focus on trying to improve our weaknesses.

Remember the saying, “What we focus on expands.” Focus on what’s wrong and you get more of it. Focus on the good and it increases.

What Goodness Is

Don’t fall for the idea that goodness is relative, that one man’s meat is another man’s poison. The good in life is what supports it, what lifts burdens and alleviates suffering. What’s toxic is action that produces suffering where it doesn’t have to exist.

When the founders of positive psychology got the idea to identify what things contributed to the Good Life, they looked at the qualities that people found most worthwhile across cultures and across centuries of time. They ended up finding six general categories of time-tested values that were held in high esteem all over the world:

  • Wisdom and Knowledge
  • Courage
  • Humanity and Love
  • Justice
  • Temperance
  • Transcendence

These virtues form the pillars that uphold civilizations that give rise to the Good Life.

Under these virtues, the positive psychologists identified character strengths that were linked to each category. (See: The 24 Personal Strengths: An Overview)

Strengths and Virtue

These strengths are the vehicles by which we creatively and productively move forward in the world, the means by which we bring the six universal virtues into existence, both in our individual experience and in the world as a whole.

When individuals become aware of their signature strengths, they can use them as a channel for joyfully pouring energy into work that contributes to the well-being of all. Strengths such as curiosity and “street smarts,” for example, are expressions of the virtue of knowledge and wisdom. People who possess them invent new and unconventional ways to get things done. They value practicality and look for ways to make things work in the real world.

Instead of bowing to the mob or basing their choices and actions on currently popular slogans and memes, people who use their strengths to foster the expression of universal values discover genuine depth and meaning in their goals. They focus on creating the Good Life for all, and they work to understand more and more clearly what the Good Life truly entails. They look for ways to increase the deliciousness of life, to promote the things that make living worthwhile. The torches they carry are the torches of truth. The fires they build are the fires of freedom.

If we want to build a better world, one that is just, and balanced, and wise, we need to hone our focus on the Good and to promote it, each in his or her own way, each with his or her own strengths. The wrong is all too evident. The way out is to focus on the Good.

Visit Susan Minarik’s Blog

Positive-Living-Now is about how we can experience more happiness and live richer, more meaningful, more satisfying lives. Positive-Living-Now is about the actions we can practice in our lives that diminish the obstacles that keep us from living fully and that move us toward living with more vitality and richness and joy.  It’s about identifying our highest values and living them with fullness and strength.


Back to Charles

We probably agree that the world is full of difficult issues that could use a good sorting-out, and most folks are sort of easygoing, so they’ll just let some of those issues slide if it’s not too close to home. That still leaves, however, a sizeable number of people who have strong ideas about what’s right and wrong (especially what’s right and wrong for you and me). These volunteers seem ready to jump into the thick of things and manage all that sorting-out for us.

That’s not all bad, but it’s not all good, either.

It’s not bad because society’s disenfranchised and powerless finally get a voice raised on their behalf. It can give us a prod to notice unfair things that may never have captured our attention before. And it can wake us up to biases, injustices and inequalities that have grown into unspoken assumptions in our society.

But it’s not good when a “crusader” cynically uses today’s trend of the hour to grab power for themselves. There are many apparent humanitarians whose love of mankind runs about as deep as an evening news bite. Judging from track records and stories leaked by disgruntled ex-associates, such leaders are sometimes meddlers and busybodies who thirst for influence and power over others.

I remember reading a comment somewhere that in any freedom fighting group, there are those dedicated to righting injustice, and then there are others, usually hard-bitten and militant, who are drawn to it because of the violence. They just want to kick some ass.

if there’s a lesson here, it’s this. Don’t let yourself be conned, stampeded or shamed into agreeing with a cause unless you really do, deep down, feel it’s really right for you. And do a reality check to make sure the group’s suggested cure doesn’t end up worse than the illness they want to fix.

Cheers from sunny Japan,