Target Fixation

This time of year a lot of us are focusing on making 2013 different - better than - 2012. Plans are being mapped out; lists are being created; we are getting our motivation on.

Choose carefully those thoughts, people and energy you want to bring to your life. You will move toward your focus whether that is losing weight, eating healthier, being a better daughter or parent, exercising more, growing your business, etc.

We have our sights fixed on what we want to accomplish. Or do we? Have you placed your focus on the thing you want? Or have you placed your focus on the thing you are trying to avoid? The difference can be important.

Often, when we resolve to change, we end up focusing on the negative - what we want to stop doing, eating, saying, being.

You might say, we have target fixation. The term was first used to describe what was happening with World War II fighter pilots on low-flying bombing missions. They were so focused on the target, they would run in to it. It is thought to be what brought down the famed Red Barron.

This phenomenon is equally relevant to everyday life. If you focus on what you want to avoid, you’ll end up gravitating toward it, feeling negative and losing sight of your positive self and the incremental changes you are making.

Look where you wish to go, not at what you wish to avoid. Look at what’s possible in your life. Moving toward your growing edge can be both scary and satisfying. You’ll need action and stillness to cultivate the life you want.

I read a quote attributed to former president Dwight D. Eisenhower the other day: “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” I thought about calling mom - since she worked for him in the white house - to see if he really said that. Instead, I decided it didn’t matter.

Forego the “what if’s” and stick to realistic planning and follow through.

First, prepare: figure out what negatives you’re fixated on. It’s probably those “shoulds,” fears and comparisons you’re telling yourself daily. Write them down, find support in a friend, spouse, coach, or therapist. Replace those negative “targets” with positive ones and keep track of them. Remind yourself of them often.

Second, visualize your successes - including the small ones. They all count toward your better self. Literally look past the negative you want to avoid. Put your focus on where you want to be, not where you’re afraid of going - back to sleep instead of the gym; for the mashed potatoes instead of the salad; gossiping instead of changing the subject - you get the picture.

Third, keep bringing yourself back to center. Spend some time and energy refocusing on the positive target with gentle resolve instead of frustration with yourself. Repeat when necessary.

Newton’s first law of motion says an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion. I hope you are focusing in a positive direction. Get moving!