I’ve often said that one of the best ways to find out what you really want is to start with what you don’t want. I’d like to explore this theme a little further in this posting.
There is something about asking for what we want that attracts a lot of negativity in our present-day culture. Many of us remember childhood sayings like “Those that ask don’t get”, or we remember that we were made to feel selfish when we expressed our wants. So it is not too surprising perhaps that for many people it is incredibly difficult to come to a satisfactory answer to the question “What do you really want?” When we do succeed in answering the question clearly and without reservation it has the effect of bringing a much greater focus to our energy.
However the effect of this childhood and cultural conditioning is that most of us find it much easier to identify what we don’t want than what we do want. The secret is to take what we don’t want and then turn it into the positive opposite.
So, to take an example, at work you might find yourself saying: “I am always getting interrupted when I am trying to concentrate on my work.” And sometimes we can go on saying that for years without doing anything about it!
The first step is to identify what you don’t want. This is pretty obvious: “I don’t want to be constantly interrupted when I am trying to concentrate on my work.” However note that this is a much more powerful statement than “I am always getting interrupted.” Once you have identified it as something you don’t want, as opposed to something you are merely complaining about, there is a much greater likelihood of your doing something about it.
Step two is to identify the positive opposite. What is the positive opposite for you of being constantly interrupted? Note that I said “for you” — we are not looking for the exact grammatical opposite but what it would mean for you. So you might say “to have a uninterrupted couple of hours every day during which I can really concentrate on my work.”
Compare the effect that each of the following statements is likely to have:
“I’m always getting interrupted when I’m trying to concentrate on my work”
“I don’t want to be constantly interrupted when I am trying to concentrate on my work.”
“I want an uninterrupted couple of hours every day during which I can really concentrate on my work”.
Which statement is most likely to result in your being able to concentrate on your work without interruptions?