Busting myths: you get what you focus on


This is the first in a series of posts aimed at demystifying spiritual jargon, debunking myths about the Law of Attraction, and helping people see through beliefs we use to torture ourselves. I am not an “enlightened being,” but I have been questioning thoughts and releasing feelings for many years so I do see through stories that some people might not, and many people find my facilitation helpful. My hope is that this series can do the same for you.

Today’s belief is:

You get what you focus on.

Like many sayings, this has some truth in it, and is easily misunderstood. It’s easy to use it against ourselves or against other people. That never helps.

What this doesn’t mean is:

  • If you are having a rotten time, it’s somehow your fault.
  • You must subconsciously want the horrible things that are happening to you.
  • All you have to do is create a vision board, chant, “I am a millionaire” a thousand times a day, and it will happen.

What it does mean is:

1) If you think about something a lot, that’s what you notice in the world.

2) If you focus on what you don’t want to happen, you tend to keep seeing it in your mind.

Let’s look at these more closely:

1) If you think about something a lot, that’s what you notice in the world.

Years ago, my daughters and I did an experiment. Walking along a busy street, I asked them to count red cars, and I did too. We all saw fourteen. Then I asked them to count white cars. While they did, I silently counted red cars. When they stopped counting, I asked how many red cars they’d seen. They’d seen two. I’d seen ten.

From when we wake till we fall asleep, we see, hear, smell, taste and even sense so much information that the only way to process it is to filter some of it out. People who can’t do this feel overwhelmed, so it’s a necessary part of life.

However, it can cause us problems. When we form a belief about something, our minds automatically look for evidence to back this up. If for example, I believe you are loud and rude, I’ll notice times you are and ignore evidence to the contrary. Maybe you once loudly interrupted me, and I felt so humiliated I didn’t even notice your embarrassed apologies. I go on assuming you will interrupt me and clam up the moment you appear. However, if I question my assumption, I might start to see how hard you try to include me in conversations.

2) If you focus on what you don’t want to happen, you tend to keep seeing it in your mind.

This doesn’t make the thing you dread happen, but it does cause stress. However, if you beat yourself up for focusing on what you don’t want, you’re not likely to make changes, but just to feel bad about yourself. So often, instead of having compassion for ourselves in difficult situations, we think we should be handling them better, shouldn’t be feeling anxious.  We fear fear itself, and yet we cling to it.

Some suggestions to change focus:

  • Allow the feelings of fear, and be willing for them to go. If you are able to simply welcome the feeling fully, it will dissolve. You don’t need to try to change your mind’s images, by themselves they have no power. (This is the basis of a process, The Sedona Method, which I use regularly and find hugely helpful. You can find out more about it here.)
  • If letting go of fear seems too hard, imagine letting go of a bit of it, and then some more. At first, visualisation can help. The first time I ever did this, I imagined my fear as a ball of barbed wire, and let it shrink in size.
  • Try self-compassion. Recognise that you are struggling now, that everyone has those experiences sometimes, and resolve to be as kind to yourself as you can.

A little self-kindness goes a long way towards healing.

I hope you found this post useful. If you have a belief that you’d like help with, share it in the comments or drop me an e-mail, and I’ll include it in a future post.


  1. I enjoyed this post because I lost some faith in LOA when something traumatic happened to me. How did I attract such pain exactly at the time when I was feeling at peace with the world for the first time in years?
    I think sh*t happens — bad things happen to good people and what we think or do has no relevance. We can’t control everything that goes on around us.
    But, as you say, we CAN control where we put our attention. And I’m putting mine on the good stuff.

    1. Author

      Katie, exactly. Sh*t happens. The way the LOA is promoted, or interpreted, is often far too simplistic. I also agree we can’t control everything around us, and nor do we need to.
      Thanks for your comment.

  2. I love this part: “Try self-compassion. Recognise that you are struggling now, that everyone has those experiences sometimes, and resolve to be as kind to yourself as you can.” I can be so hard on myself– much harder than other people would be– and being kinder to myself makes me happier, and therefore my whole family happier, I’m sure.

    1. Author

      Julia, I agree that when I am happier my family is too, and I agree that being kind to ourselves makes us happier! It is so, so common for people (especially women perhaps) to be harder on ourselves than on others. I had a conversation with a friend about that this morning.
      Thanks for your comment!

    1. Author

      Lisa, your comment made me laugh! Thanks! We’re all a bit guilty of this I think, and I’m so glad that it was of use to you.

  3. You’re so so very right that we see what we’re focusing on and that questioning our own assumptions is so important to have a more truthful view of the world and its confusing (at times) people. I love the concept of self kindness and being as kind to myself as possible. Love. Excellent post as always, Yvonne!

    1. Author

      Thanks Kristi, and yes a more truthful view of the world is important – and actually quite enjoyable! I guess we’re all works in progress, and we all have our blind spots. It’s so great to see them and let go.

  4. This is almost exactly what my counselor and I were talking about last night — changing my mind about I see situations to alleviate stress, and being kind to myself, especially when dealing with issues in my life. Very good perspective; I’m looking forward to reading more!

    1. Author

      Hi Jessica, I’m glad this resonates with you and echoes what you and your counsellor were talking about. So many of us are too hard on ourselves and it’s wonderful that people are beginning to realise that and to make changes.
      Yes to you being kind to yourself!
      Thanks for your comment.

  5. I loved this post because it was so refreshingly simple. The advent of “mindfulness chic” has brought with it a lot of highfalutin language and quoting of the Buddha. But this, this is wonderful. Thanks for the great reminder; look forward to more in this series. xo

    1. Author

      Simple is my middle name Deb! 🙂 Not really, but I do think it’s far too easy to get caught up in the “highfalutin language” and in quoting Buddha (or other teachers) without really understanding.

      I’m so pleased you like the new style of post. I am planning to keep them short and simple from now on!

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