My husband recently took a course at work they require for managers. The premise is most managers devote about 80% of their energy to a very small percentage of employees who are having trouble and causing problems. As deliberate creators we know what happens when you focus on problems, you get more of them. Apparently we aren’t the only ones, because business management gurus know this too. When a manager focus on his or her problem children, the rest of the department aches for attention. Things go unchecked. Good behaviour and big producers go unnoticed and feel unappreciated. Since the manager pretty much only manages problems, pretty soon there are more problems than can possibly be managed.
I’m pretty sure this is human nature. People tend to notice things that are broken or are irritating, whilst the rest of life tends to blend into the background. The good stuff is there, but the hard stuff or problems are more pressing. You can’t ignore them because if you do things get worse, so you focus your attention at what’s wrong. You notice what hurts. I woke up this morning and my neck was wrenched with spasms. The rest of my body felt great. Do you think I noticed my very relaxed legs? No. I didn’t even try.
It happens in relationships too, in a big way. People get very aware of the things that are irritating about their partner. One or two little habits that get your attention and annoy you can very quickly turn into living with someone that drives you insane. One “serious” problem in a relationship can overshadow, hundreds if not thousands of other things, big and small, that are working between two people. The problem is, it happens very quickly. Negative focus and attention is a fast acting poison that gets into the systemic energy of a relationship.
We know this stuff. I’m stating the obvious. Focus on what you want more of and you’ll get it. Focus on what you don’t want and you’ll get that too. The key in relationships is to be willing. Are you willing to let go of resentment and irritation to get more of what you want? The easy answer is yes, but in practice it’s a little more difficult for many people. You think you’ve earned your resentments. You deserve them. People wear resentments like bad relationship merit badges, they collect them.
The ideal would be to only focus on the good stuff to the exclusion of all the other stuff, all the time. That would be awesome. The real human relationship plan would probably be a little more flexible. First of all, spend a few days really observing your own observations. Get really clear on what you’re really paying attention to. Be honest. Then make a serious commitment to shifting the proportions. You might start with an 80/20 commitment. 80% of your attention goes towards things that are working well and you really appreciate about your partner. Then work your way progressively up the scale.
The bottom line is, the best recipe for a dream relationship is to obsess about what’s going right. That’s the only obsession worth having. (Tweetable!)