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Here’s how to train your mind to focus on solutions, not problems

Chron logo Chron 12/6/2020 By Bob Weinstein, FREELANCE WRITER
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What do all successful people have in common when confronted with a challenge?

Give up? No. They focus on solutions, rather than problems.

So says Jason Selk, author of Relentless Solution Focus, with Ellen Reed.

Selk is a performance coach who has worked with business leaders and superstar athletes. As director of Mental Training for the St. Louis Cardinals, he played an important role in the team’s first World Series victory in more than twenty years in 2006, and their second in 2011.

Twenty years ago, Selk’s goal was to combine what he knew about cognitive neuroscience, brain chemistry, and human performance in order to create a training method to teach people how to develop a solution-focus that characterizes most top performers. Since then, he has taught his method to businesspeople and athletes who have used it to accomplish their goals.

Although this is contrary to the way humans are hardwired, “mentally tough people actually choose the thoughts that cause them to take actions that lead to positive outcomes,” explains Selk.

“Over millennia, our very survival relied on our ability to be alert to potential dangers,” said Selk. That is, we are pre-disposed to look for problems — what he calls “problem-centric thought.” This negativity bias significantly limits our potential and increases stress, pressure, and underperformance.

By developing a Relentless Solution Focus (RSF) — which Selk and cowriter Reed have taught to tens of thousands of clients — people will not only be prepared for adversity, but will be able to thrive in it. The mind-training program makes it possible to reframe every problem into an opportunity for positive, productive action. The process includes the following three parts:

1. Recognize. First, recognize when negative thinking has set in. Selk said the RSF process teaches people to be alert to negative thoughts, and to use the onset of this thinking to create positive behavior change. This is important because what anyone focuses on expands. Focusing on problems makes them larger and less manageable.

2. Replace. Once you’re aware of your problem-focused thoughts, it is essential to replace the negative thinking with more positive thoughts. The key is to do it quickly, within 60 seconds or less. To do this, people must ask themselves one simple question: What is one thing I can do right now that could make this better? Selk suggests using what he calls “the mental chalkboard” to ensure that people focus on solutions. “Fortunately, just as focusing on problems causes them to expand, focusing on solutions has the same effect,” he said.

3. Retrain . “No muscle becomes strong without training, developing mental strength requires training, as well,” explains Selk. While negative thinking is hardwired, the brain has the ability to change.

According to Selk, Relentless Solution Focus offers tools that enable readers to train their minds in only three minutes per day.

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