A little more than a decade ago, a book called “The Secret” took the world by storm. The basic premise of the tome was that the energy people send out to the universe gets reflected back onto them. If individuals direct their focus toward desires and not worries, they can manifest the money, career or love they seek.
Is it true that you become what you focus on? Nearly every successful person says they attained their goals by visualizing what could go right, not wrong. However, humans share the world with horrors like war, child abuse and disease — is it really fair to blame victims of such tragedies for thinking the wrong thoughts and bringing their misery upon themselves?
Locus of Control or Wishful Thinking?
In psychology, the term locus of control refers to the degree that people feel they have over their own lives. Those who have an internal locus of control believe their thoughts, actions and behaviors determine their destiny. Those with an external locus of control assert human success hinges upon outside factors and influences, such as where someone was born or the wealth their parents possessed.
Those who have a stronger internal locus of control tend to be happier and more successful, but is that because they bring their good fortune into their lives through their thoughts? It’s a bit of a chicken or egg question. Do the people who enjoy the most success do so because of the way they think, or did their thinking change when they began attaining certain goals?
Maybe there is no precise answer to the question of whether people become what they focus on. Perhaps the truth lies in a bit of both life outlooks.
How People Accomplish Great Things
While philosophers wrangle over whether people create their own lives through their beliefs or whether human life remains more a matter of luck, others go on to change the world. Still, others lead lives of quiet desperation without ever fully enjoying the positive things the world has to offer.
Those who know how to break down their goals into smaller manageable pieces succeed more often than those who state amorphous ideals, such as losing weight or earning more money. Psychologically, the brain sets itself up to fail when it takes on more than it can chew or when it fails to break big projects down.
Instead of planning to finish that novel in six months, people should set weekly writing goals and stick to them. These goals should be manageable and reasonable. To get closer to living a dream, individuals should break large tasks down into smaller bites, such as writing five pages per week, to keep themselves on track.
Do People Truly Become What They Focus On?
The neurons of the brain work like muscles — the ones moved more often become stronger while those left unused tend to atrophy. This sounds frightening, but in reality, it’s where the source of power lies.
Therefore, by consciously choosing to focus on accomplishing goals, people strengthen the parts of the brain associated with attainment and satisfaction. As neurons grow through use, they send electrical signals telling the rest of the body what to do. With training, those circuits in constant use transmit these messages in a more positive way.
A strong case can be made that what people focus on is what they become. However, sometimes the most horrible things happen to innocent people. Stating, for example, that soldiers injured in battle brought their wounds upon themselves sounds not only disingenuous but also cruel.
Conversely, saying people are nothing more than victims of their circumstances absolves individuals who have committed atrocities. Saying someone played no role in their success, despite the fact they fought to put themselves through school despite growing up in an impoverished family, negates all their hard work.
Finding Your Balance
The truth about whether people create their reality through their thoughts or whether their life is completely in the hands of chance probably lies somewhere between the two extremes. People can’t choose their birth family or manipulate their genetic code to eliminate the chances of falling ill. However, they can control how they react to and overcome the unique challenges in life.
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