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Choose Your Focus

From the book BE NICE (OR ELSE!)
By Winn Claybaugh

Driving down the road of life, we all look through our windshields. We focus on where we are, what's going on around us, and where we want to go. But we also look at the rearview mirror to see where we've been and what happened back there.

Now, what's in your mind's rearview mirror? Bad drama, bad experiences, bad relationships, past mistakes, and old beliefs? Let's categorize all of that as baggage. You've got baggage in your rearview mirror.

If I were to ask you to share with me a name from a bad relationship you once had, I'm sure you'd be able to produce that name. That person's name and the memory of that bad relationship—that baggage—are all in your rearview mirror.

Now, here's where this gets interesting. Oftentimes we're tempted to drive down the road of life focusing only on the rearview mirror: ''That idiot so-and-so. What he did to me . . .'' If you drove down any road focusing only on your rearview mirror, what do you think would happen? You'd end up where you don't want to be, or worse—you'd probably crash. When you don't look through your windshield, and instead focus on the past and what happened ''back there,'' you have no control over where you'll end up. You're an accident waiting to happen.

Ask yourself, Where do I predominately choose to focus: on the road ahead or on my rearview mirror, filled with the past? If you focus on the past, you may notice that you tend to worry about the future because your focus carries the negative experiences from your past into your present.

I'm not saying to pretend those bad things never happened. Denying them has no merit or value in your pursuit of being nice to yourself in the future. That's not what ''positive mental thinking'' means. I'm simply suggesting that you put your bad experiences into perspective, and just glance into your rearview mirror every once in a while. Maybe you're driving down the road of life toward a new relationship. Look through your windshield to the fun and excitement that lies ahead, and occasionally check out that rearview mirror for useful information: ''Uh-oh, I learned that from my last relationship. I've been there before, and I'm not going to repeat that again.''

You program the future—you program tomorrow with today's thoughts and beliefs. If today's beliefs include statements like ''Relationships just don't work,'' and if today's thoughts are about how you messed things up in the past, what's tomorrow going to be like? Exactly the same, if not worse. When you continually focus and worry about how bad things were in the past, you might be destined to repeat them. Worry is a form of negative goal setting.

The bad experiences in your rearview mirror are meant to be valuable lessons and discoveries you've made in life, but creating a different future requires you to choose your focus carefully. Life is a choice, and how you feel about yourself today is the result of choices you made in the past.

Winn Claybaugh, author of Be Nice (Or Else!) with foreword by CNN's Larry King, has worked in the beauty industry since 1983. He is the National Motivational Expert for John Paul Mitchell Systems and the founder of Paul Mitchell The School, with several locations throughout the U.S. Winn has helped thousands of businesses build their brands and create successful working cultures; his clients include Vidal Sassoon, the Irvine Company, Entertainment Tonight, Mattel, For Rent magazine, Structure/Limited Express, and others. In 2004, the North American Hairdressing Awards (NAHA) recognized Winn's outstanding contributions to the hair and beauty industry by naming him to their Hall of Leaders. In its November 1997 ''Super Heroes'' section, American Salon magazine called Winn a ''mover of mountains'' and ''Mr. Fix-it.'' Winn has also served as vice president of the AIDS Relief Fund for Beauty Professionals, and he continues to pursue many fundraising projects. Visit Winn at and sign up for the free monthly Be Nice (Or Else!) Newsletter.

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