You Get What You’re Looking For: The Power of the Mind

you get what you're looking for

A number of years ago I moved my family from Denver to Spokane, Washington, where I had accepted a new job. I was not aware at the time of how difficult an adjustment the move would be to my children, who were then 14, 12 and 9 years of age. It was especially difficult for my 12 year-old son, Jonathan, who came home from school every day complaining about life in Spokane. Nothing was right. He hated the weather. The kids at his school weren’t nice. His teacher was boring. There was nothing to do at home at night. And on and on.

A Breakfast Game

One Saturday morning as we were seated around the breakfast table, I decided to play a game that I hoped would be a learning experience. I asked the kids to look around the room and notice everything that was blue. After 30 seconds, I told them to stop and close their eyes and then asked them to tell me everything they could remember in the room that was green.

“Oh Dad, that’s not fair,” one of them said. “You asked us to look for what was blue.”

“I know I did,” I replied. “You’re right, I’m not fair. But tell me what you remember that is green.”  Between them they named about 5 items.

“Okay,” I said, “keep your eyes closed and tell me everything you noticed that was blue.” Between them they named close to 20 items.

I had them open their eyes and I asked, “Why could you name so many more things that were blue than green?”

As though I had scripted his answer, Jonathan was the first to speak and said, “Because you see what you are looking for.”

I couldn’t have been more pleased with my little experiment.  “Exactly, Jon,” I said. Here was my opportunity. “So what have you been looking for since we have been living in Spokane?’

“Dad,” he protested, “That’s not fair.”

“Maybe not, Jon, but think about it for a minute. It seems to me that you have been looking for what is wrong with Spokane. And do you know what? Just like our game, if that is what you look for that is what you’ll find.”

We Get What We’re Looking For

Jon got the message and eventually adjusted fine to life in Spokane. And of course, it wasn’t too many months later when I played another little trick on my kids by moving them back to Denver.

But, the importance of the lesson remains. You get what you’re looking for. We don’t see the world as it is. There are simply too many stimuli bombarding us continually every day. We sort it out. We do so by our core, often unconscious, beliefs.

It’s like Donald told Hal in The Hero’s Choice: “Remember, Hal, that the mind sees only what it’s looking for. If we go raspberry picking, raspberries are what we find. Perhaps you decided, even a long time ago, that Kathy doesn’t support you. And all you have looked for–and found–has been evidence you were right. Any other evidence you dismissed or didn’t let in. You tossed it in the trash….” (p. 108)

What are You Looking For?

So, what are you looking for as you go through life? In what ways are you living to prove yourself “right” about a particular belief or point of view about life…yourself…a relationship? even though that belief may not serve you?

Remember that the mind functions to be right about whatever it happens to believe. As the lyrics to one of my favorite boyhood songs goes, “All lies in jest, till a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.  Lie la lie…”

Eduardo, from a recent post, gave up his need to be right. He shifted his paradigm, changed some core beliefs that were not serving him. He began accepting and interacting with life on its terms rather than his own.

Would you be willing to hold some of your beliefs more tentatively? I’m talking about beliefs that cause you emotional turmoil or pain. Perhaps it is not simply reality that is the problem. Maybe it has to do with the way you’ve framed it.

That is part of living in the paradigm of “Serenity,” as I like to call it. Serenity is not a passive, laid back or resigned attitude towards life. It is being conscious about how your beliefs control and limit (or empower) you. It is about being responsible for those beliefs. Having enough humility to recognize they may not serve you and letting some of them go, replacing them with beliefs that are more kind and friendly to you and those around you. What do you think? Are you ready for that?



  1. The Power of Attitude to Overcome Adversity- Lessons from a POW - [...] my newsletter last week I told the story, “You Get What You’re Looking For.” The point of the story…

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