Change Your Life with These Two Words

Mary DeMuth is the author of sixteen books, including her latest Not Marked: Finding Hope and Healing after Sexual Abuse. She’s spoken around the nation and the world about how we can discover and live an uncaged, freedom-infused life. She lives in Texas with her family. Check out her website and follow her on Twitter.

My word for 2014 is focus. I chose to focus on only three tasks in 2014—releasing a sexual abuse recovery book, beginning the Uncaged Podcast (still in the works), and ramping up my speaking.

Even with focus, I’ve run into a wall—and it looks oddly like myself. In the midst of launching a highly vulnerable book, I’ve invited the naysayers, and they’ve robbed me of productivity and joy.

These naysayers are not people. They are the voices in me that say I’m fooling myself; I’ll never be successful; I’ll ultimately have to retreat in defeat by year’s end. To escape, I am learning to marry focus with positivity to experience lasting, joy-filled success.

As leaders in a chaotic and negative world, we lose sight of these two important traits. Focus and positivity will change the way we lead, what we accomplish, and how we impact those who follow us. Every leader can radically alter his or her perspective (and performance) by combining focus and positivity in these two events: the morning routine and the evening resistance.

The Morning Routine

I greatly admire how Michael sticks to a morning routine of silence, reflection, reading and exercise. He is focused and disciplined. Because of my overly busy season, I find my tasks usurping my morning routine. This inevitably leads to negativity throughout the day—I feel scattered, less productive, and overwhelmed.

We must value ourselves, which includes setting aside our mornings to regenerate and focus our lives. When we do, we set the tone for a successful day, our priorities intact, our head and heart on straight, and our soul settled. We essentially give the day permission to be positive because we’ve started in a peaceful direction.

Action: With pen and paper, write out your ideal morning routine. Tape this to your monitor as a reminder that our day’s start positively influences our day’s end.

The Evening Resistance

The natural result of taking risks and leading well is resistance. It comes in many forms: an angry email, that internal voice of condemnation, an out-of-the-blue financial roadblock, or a colleague’s interference. This resistance slams into me as I settle into sleep. All the what-if’s—the accusations about unaccomplished tasks, the berating—happen when I’m finally still.

If this evening resistance continues, it’s time to do a self-intervention. During my book launch, the old voices returned. “This won’t sell. You’re a hack. Folks will walk away.” This could have derailed me from my focus. Instead, I remind myself of James 1:2 (Phillips). “When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends!”

The evening resistance is your friend to embrace, not an intruder to resent. The pushing back helps you clarify the initial reason why you’re doing the thing you do, refocus on that effort, and reframe the why. Experiencing resistance confirms you’re doing something right—you’re bringing light into dark places.

I love what Martin Seligman writes in his amazing (helpful!) book Learned Optimism: “I have found, however, that pessimism is escapable. Pessimists can in fact learn to be optimists, and not through mindless devices like whistling a happy tune or mouthing platitudes…but by learning a new set of cognitive skills.” Yes, it is possible to reframe your outlook, even when angry thoughts assail you.

Action: If the resistance comes tonight, ask: How can I welcome this as a friend? List three reasons how this resistance will push you toward greater focus and positive enthusiasm.

Focus and positivity. Such beautiful, simple words—and when they’re operational in your morning and evening, a stunning synergy emerges. Workdays become productive, and your mind de-clutters from crippling negativity.

Question: How about you? How have you learned to focus better this year? How has positivity changed the way you view your obstacles?

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