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One of my favorite concepts for growth and happiness has many names and has been employed in diverse fields from business to parenting to sports. The concept is simple, but because it’s not the way our brains or culture usually operate, it’s easy to forget.

In the “strength development method” for example, coined by Japanese management consultant Yukio Funai, companies emphasize their strengths. Weaknesses are not even considered. What happens, explains Masaru Emoto in The Secret Life of Water, is that strengths become stronger and weaknesses take care of themselves.

For example, "if you run a store,” Emoto says, “it’s easy to focus all your attention on how to move the products that aren't selling well. But most stores will have a product that's a strong seller. For a boutique, it may be a particular style of dress; if they can focus their attention on that dress, then sales of that product and other products as well will increase. For a business to succeed, it needs to focus on what is selling well, what's most effective, and what they do best.”

The same concept appears in other philosophies I’ve encountered. When I apply Marie Kondo’s joy test to anything from doo-dads to photos to projects, it helps me find what matters to me and what to do next.

In PEP parenting classes I took, we were encouraged to notice children’s positive qualities and behaviors, instead of paying attention to what we didn’t want.

When giving feedback, I love choreographer and Critical Response Process founder Liz Lerman's suggestion: refrain from fixing and instead notice what is “meaningful, evocative, interesting, exciting, or striking” about the work. Criticism tends to shut us down, while encouragement lights us up.

In therapeutic healing, positive psychology, gardening, and more, I have seen how it works to focus on what is healthy. Paying attention to where we see abundance, rather than lack, leads to feelings of happiness and confidence, which in turn leads to more growth and confidence.

If you’re unsure what to do next or how to tackle a project, try concentrating on what is going well. When I do this, indecision falls away, hope and enthusiasm returns, and new things begin to grow and flourish.


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