James Allen, author of As a Man Thinketh, reminds us that we ultimately get what we think about and we become the person we focus on the most. The challenge is staying focused.
Everyone is familiar with the work of Professor Walter Mischel at Columbia University and his famous marshmallow experiment where in he found that four year olds who were able to resist the temptation of eating the marshmallow in front of them for the reward of getting a second marshmallow if they could hold off for 20 minutes, did so who sang songs, played with their shoelaces, or some other act to temporarily distract their mind away from the temptation. By distracting their attention and their mind from the marshmallow, they were able to get the bigger reward. Mischel also discovered that these same four years olds ultimately did better on SAT tests and had lower body mass index as adults than those who could not distract themselves!
One of the most important validations of Mischel’s work is that you can’t focus on the opposite of an idea. You can’t think about marshmallows and not expect to eat one. You can’t think about failure and expect to succeed. It’s exactly what James Allen was trying to teach us. Mischel just validated it in a different way.
With so many messages bombarding us every day from the media, patients, e-mail, text messages, etc. staying “positively distracted” is one of our biggest challenges. Just like four year old with a big, fluffy, white marshmallow staring back from the table right in front of him or her, we have things staring back at us every day that demand our attention, but that will not lead us any closer to where we want to go. We have to stay “positively distracted” in other ways in order to stay focused.
Here are some suggestions to stay “positively distracted” as you go through out your day:
1. Start your day with a quick review of your vision, your goals, and your positive focus.
2. Be consistent with your team’s morning meeting every day and make sure you stay on purpose with a set, written agenda that stays focused on the opportunities in the day ahead.
3. Ask your patients what the best thing that has happened to them since you saw them last. Don’t ask them how they are doing. They just might tell you! Keep them focused on the positive and you’ll stay positive.
4. Compliment at least one other person on the team each day for some contribution they made to the team that day.
5. Thank every patient for coming in and for being a patient.
6. Conclude every day with a short celebration of some victory or accomplishment during the day.
“Positive distractions” make the allure and temptation of a possible negative focus from creeping into the workday. Nature abhors a vacuum, so when there is space to fill, you can bet that it is going to be filled with something less than what you want unless you fill you day with positive distractions that keep those negative “marshmallow” thoughts and conversations away.