Focus steering 

 8 March 2022

I received a number of responses to my last topic on "optimism for the future". Most of them revolved around the questions: How do you shift the focus of attention to the positive? How do you get out of the problem trance? I'm taking up the ball. Because current events have made this topic more important than ever! How "bad" the world seems to us affects not only our lives, but also our daily work, our projects and companies. Let's take a look at a few ways to steer the focus.

Pattern breaker

First we have to end the problem trance! The resigned look at the fly in the soup must be broken. What helps here is pattern interruption. When the problem and thought sorters gather together in the workshop and build up their anger at each other about why this or that doesn't work: take a break. Everyone with the coffee outside. Or "unintentionally" slam the metaplan wall to the floor. Or watch cat videos together on Insta. Or a joke ... I once flicked water in the face of a client in a one-on-one coaching session who had already been recounting her problem trance for 20 min. The laughter that followed was the break it needed.


The body is a good tool for directing focus. If you stand up straight and open, you can't be in as bad a mood as someone slumped at a meeting table - one of the reasons why dailies take place standing up. Walking is even better, it gets our thoughts flowing. The mind follows the body.

What have I achieved?

Evolutionarily, our evaluation of perception has been geared towards weighting the negative more than the positive. That makes sense when the sabre-toothed tiger is standing in front of you: Running away was usually the better option than admiring the fur. Nowadays, such situations are rather rare. To give more weight to the positive, we have two options: Focus on things

  1. for which we are grateful,
  2. that we have managed or created.

In many biographies of successful and optimistic people, it can be read that they have repeatedly noted exactly this in their diaries: What am I grateful for? What have I done well today? Lo and behold, there's a similar question in the Daily Meeting - why on earth? 😉 And those who find gratitude too "eso" then take: What do I like very much right now?


Equally helpful: Eliminate bad news. If you follow the live tickers of current crises from early in the morning, discuss them during your coffee break, and go to bed in the evening with the late news, don't be surprised if you're in a bad mood. The media have long understood that bad news works better than good news. And on social media channels, you'll find just the opposite: on Facebook, everyone else is on vacation, on Insta, everyone is always eating fancy food, and on LinkedIn, everyone is shining with business successes. And this comparison doesn't make people optimistic either.
So: Shut down, turn off. Stay informed, but not constantly bombarded.

Yes, exactly! And...

There is an exercise I know from improv theatre: you take the role of two experts, for example for bubble wrap (LBF). Two rounds follow:

E1 muses: "You can overwinter plant pots wonderfully with the LBF."
E2 counters: "No, then everything molds."
E1: "But you can hold great bang concerts with LBF."
E2: "And then you have a lot of garbage." ...

Second round:
E1: "With the LBF, you can overwinter plant pots quite wonderfully."
E2: "Yes, exactly, and if you extend them to the ground, then it pops funny when you walk."
E1: "Yes, exactly, and if you make the bubbles even bigger, we have a bouncy castle!"
E2: "Yes, exactly, and if we make them even bigger, you can build little TinyHäuschen in them."

Do you see the difference? A "no" and a "but" stop the story and the positive thinking. A "Yes exactly, and ..." brings completely new ideas and possibilities.

And now think back to the last brainstorming session or workshop, and imagine the wealth of innovative and new ideas that could have emerged! Yes, even bizarre, crazy, impossible ones. But as the saying goes: "Everyone said, 'That's not possible. Then someone came along who didn't know that and did it."