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Train Your Eyes to See Color, Again

Photo by Marina Burity

There are many reasons why we don’t always get what we want. One of these reasons is because we focus on the opposite of what we want. Sometimes, we just can’t help it. But, if we are conscious of our thoughts, we can intercept these thoughts and shift our frame of mind towards our desired goals.

Have you ever been particularly annoyed by a person or situation? The more we complain about it, the more we notice it. The more we notice it, the worse it becomes. The next time we interact with that person or situation, we almost expect to be annoyed and thus subconsciously look for those small triggers that’ll make us annoyed.

In a similar example of an opposite scenario: Have you ever shopped for a particular kind of car which you’ve never noticed before? For example, a black SmartCar or a silver Toyota Prius. And suddenly, you see them everywhere? Similarly, have you shopped for a particular piece of clothing, let’s say a blazer style jacket for the spring, and suddenly you notice them everywhere?

Whether we focus on things we want or do not want, the truth is that What we focus on expands.

From my experience, dreams do come true, for the sole reason that the more you focus on something, the more of it you’ll notice and you’ll be particularly sensitive to opportunities that’ll come your way which will allow your dreams to become your reality.

Try It For Yourself! A Simple Exercise

Not convinced of what I’m saying? That’s cool. I still like you. :) But before you throw your hands up, try this simple yet powerful exercise. It’s so simple, you could do it anywhere.

1. Next time you are walking or driving somewhere, or sitting on the bus or a car. Remember to do this.

2. Pick a color and focus on it. Look for that color in your field of vision as you’re moving about. For example, focus on the color red.

3. Do this for several minutes. Do you notice this color in so many places?

4. Pick another color and focus on it. Forget about the first color, just focus on the second. For example, try the color green.

5. Continue for several minutes. Scan your surroundings. Do you suddenly notice your second color popping up everywhere?

6. Repeat several times using different colors each time.

Pretty cool huh? As simple or as silly this may sound, it’s a powerful exercise that I like to play around with. Each time we shift our focus on a new color, it feels like a shift in vision, or putting on special glasses that only filters this color.

I first learned about this cute technique from my mother. We were in the car and I was particularly annoyed about something and I started acting like an unreasonable child. She used this exercise to remind me that focusing on thoughts of frustration will only makes our frustrations stronger. I was deeply touched by the experience. I learned that we can proactively shift our thoughts by shifting our focus. A shift in our thoughts will shift our emotions, almost instantly.


Practices in Real Life

So, how can I put this into practice? Great question! There are many situations where you can benefit by putting your power of focus into practice. The following are some practical suggestions.

  • Annoying People – It’s inevitable that we will interact with people who frustrate us. Instead of focusing on why they are frustrating us or the feelings of frustration, focus on things we admire about them. It might take some practice, but start it the next time you are in their presence. Look for things you like about them and what you admire about them. Perhaps they have nice shoes, or a nice smile, or their work ethic is admirable. Focus on that and look for more to focus on.
  • Frustrating Situations – When situations do not favor our expectations, it can be super frustrating. But, the more we think about how annoyed we are, the more red-eyed and anger-consumed we become, which is not helping the situation or your health. Focus on the positives of a situation. Make an effort to pick them out. I know this can be tough to do, but just start. Look for things that you learned or enjoyed about the situation.A personal story: More than a year ago, I traveled from Tibet to Nepal with my friends Jonathan and his wife Soyan. What should have been an easy 4 hour cab ride into the capital turned into a 10 hour ordeal resulting in 6 separate rides that got us into the city safely. It was a deeply frustrating and stressful situation, but amongst it all, we got to see the warmth of people from rural Nepal, and had a unique and enriching cultural experience.
  • Feeling Sick – When we don’t feel physically well, do you notice that we like to tell ourselves that we’re not feeling well? We like to tell anyone at any opportunity that “I’m sick”. While you are entitled to saying anything you like, what will actually help you get better is by focusing on being healthy. Enjoy this time as your body rests and recovers. Focus on the image of you in perfect health.
  • ‘I Hate My Job’ – I’ve heard of this from many others and have repeated it myself when the moments get rough. The result is always the same: as I find more reasons to dislike my job, I feel even more discontent. In these moments, I have a tendency to forget just how lucky and privileged I am to have such a job. My focus on the pain puts into a negative downward spiral.Start to pick out and focus on things you enjoy about your job and all the wonderful opportunities you are afforded through it. Create a list of personal benefits from your job, and then focus on each point. For example: financial security, time flexibility, creative expression, feeling of empowerment when completing a project, inspirational co-workers, learning opportunities, chances to help others, health insurance, stock options, etc.
  • Jealousy of Other People – When we judge other people as better off than we are, it becomes easy to get caught up in feelings of jealousy, which are self-destructive. Instead of focusing on why others are undeserving, choose to understand what makes them deserving. Highlight what they’ve done well and reasons why they have been successful. Now use these insights as a source of inspiration to help yourself excel.
  • Stuck at the Airport, Missing a Flight or Losing Your Luggage – Most problems with traveling are frustrating experiences, especially when leaving home already puts us outside of our comfort zone. Focusing on how frustrating it is will only make us feel worse, and only for yourself. Focus on qualities that are empowering about the experience. How can you make the experience a positive one? For example, you can perhaps focus on:
    • “I have an extra few hours to catch up on reading.”
    • This has become a really great opportunity to meet a new friend.
    • “At least I’m still alive. I’m breathing and all. The flight delay is to ensure my safety and I am thankful for that.”
    • “Yes, delaying my luggage is inconvenient, but at least they’ll deliver it for free and I don’t have to wait at the airport for them.”
  • ‘I don’t have enough time for…” – Have you heard of yourself start a sentence like this? And then waste time on unproductive tasks like browsing the web, chatting with a friend, writing verbose emails, channel surfing on the TV. I’ve been there! You and I both know it is an excuse to avoid doing something we don’t want to do. (*wink*) If something was important enough, we can create time to make it happen. Instead of saying “I don’t have enough time for X” and then brushing it off, practice saying “How can I create time to do X?”, “How can I make this a reality? How can I free some time from my schedule?”.
  • Fear of Failure – The more we focus on the object of our fear, the more powerful the feeling is. Life rarely turns out as bad as we anticipate. Focusing on the worst possible outcome is extremely stressful. Whether it’s asking someone out on a date, or giving a presentation to an audience, it does not help to tell yourself that “I’m afraid I’m going to fail” or “What if I’ll look stupid? I might as well not try.” Instead, focus on what it is that you do want. Focus, by repeating what you want in a present tense statement. Example, “I am confident and knowledgeable about this topic and I can give a kick ass presentation. It’s a breeze!”

Similarly, see if you can apply the same principle to these situations:

  • Losing Weight
  • Losing Money
  • Getting a Date
  • Waiting on a phone line for an operator

I hope this simple skill of focus will add to your emotional mastery tool box and help you for many years to come. Please share your experiences with us when you have a chance.

What do you think about the focus exercise above? Any thoughts or stories on the power of focus from your own experience? We’d love to hear from you. Talk to us in the comments.

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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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104 thoughts on Train Your Eyes to See Color, Again

  1. Great post. Truly inspiring! It is always nice to be reminded of the awesome power of our own minds. Thanks!

  2. Ryan

    If you have not already highly recommend reading “the power of your subconscious mind” by Joseph Murphy

    Great site by the way

  3. Dave

    I am confident I can dance on my roof. Oh shoot I’m now falling off it.

    That looks really scary and aggressive. Oh what nice shoes they have on. Oh look while I’m thinking positive they’re now stealing my wallet

    Yay I am so healthy, even though I’m coughing up blood, that I won’t go to the hospital.

    I love my minimum wage job so much that I’ll stay here while my children starve.

  4. John

    Thanks a lot. This was a really good article. Could help me a lot!

  5. I think the technique proposed looks intuitively all right but can be understood in a way that can potentially lead to obsessive diversions to suppress unwanted thoughts. For eg whenever someone is troubled by thoughts, say of a heated argument, they might obsessively try to force themselves to looks for colors, or think nice thoughts of some other kind…and this paradoxically unfortunately empower the negative emotions, and the suppressed thoughts about the argument, as the brain learns that they are so strong that they need to be avoided at all cost. A better way is to focus on the unwanted thoughts about the argument and examine them and investigate not to find a solution but to see what they really are. This approach has been shown to work quite well and is not exactly some form of ‘internalized’ exposure therapy. The additional component to this technique that distinguishes it from a therapy based purely on repetitive exposure is that the observer is lead to realize the possibility of knowing the ‘watcher’ and to get disengaged from any self-identifications with whatever is being suppressed. It is this dis-engagement and clarification of the watcher that lays a firm foundation for a contemplative attitude on the phenomenological world. At a philosophical level, many religious traditions, both from the east and west, adopt this approach.

  6. SamB

    ha ha.

    When I was young, my brother and I decided to sort our Lego brick by colour. He had a lot, but it didn’t take long because when you were looking for Red, that all you seemed to be able to see.

    I was on the right track all along. just didn’t know it.

  7. clau

    Hi. This kind of thinking is quite similar to cognitive behavioural thinking which due to an anxiety disorder condition I follow as therapy in moments when I feel I am going to collapse. It is utterly effective and energy-saving indeed.

  8. Bob

    This post was boring and not inspirational. I’m tired of people telling me to think positive and positive things will happen. People make things happen for themselves, and so what if you are pissed off that you missed your flight. It’s good to get pissed off it’s a human emotion that needs to be expressed. Why not try to fix the growing epidemic of social apathy instead of turning further inward to find a bit of peace of mind, while we destroy everything and everyone in our path.

    Just a little sunshine to brighten you day;)

  9. Excellent article. In a broader sense, what we focus our attention on is what we become.

  10. I really like your article because it reminds me of the Secret. Generating positive thoughts have changed the way I perceive the world. You can read my experiences in my blog.

  11. Nice post.. seems simple and obvious but it amazes me that more people don’t think this way.

    I used a similar approach when dating..

    Instead of being nervous about them not liking me, I went in predisposed that I would not like them.. therefore I’d be relaxed, would be myself, and would be pleasantly surprised when I DID end up liking them. :)

  12. JF

    Thanks for the tip; your article helped me recall two anecdotes where I applied this principle:

    1. I was at an amusement park, and I was feeling more and more anxious as we waited in line for a rollercoaster. I was subconsciously on how fast the ride was, how scared some of the riders were, etc. and was getting more and more anxious myself. I said to my brother, “This ride looks scary!” He turned to me and said, “Yeah, it’s going to be so much fun!” And suddenly I thought to myself, “Hey, that’s right – this *is* going to be fun.” By focusing on how fast the ride was and how much *fun* the other riders were having, I got more and more excited about the ride instead of being anxious.

    2. There was a person at work who talked really loud, and whose vocal pitch set me on edge; I was so focused on his irritating traits, I didn’t even want to be in the same room as him. Later a co-worker remarked about him, “He is so funny, he says the more outrageous things!” I began seeing that previously-annoying co-worker in a different light, and yes, he *was* funny!



    Hi JF,

    Thanks for sharing your two stories. You are right on. I too have been in similar situations, especially in the office when people talk so loudly.


  13. Coincidence?

    There is nothing new or novel about this concept. It reminds me of something that was written around A.D. 70. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

    Do a search on Google for the entire quote and you’ll find the author. He has many other writings that are worth considering- many that will be new if you have not been exposed to his writings in the past.

    Also, use the concept described in Tina’s article while going through the writings. You’ll be surprised what you find.



    You are right, there is nothing new. Philosophers and teachers have been saying this for centuries. I’m not familiar with that phrase, but will look into it. Thanks for the reference. You learn something new everyday! :)


  14. Sounds much like a cousin to “The Secret”. This kind of thinks works to your benefit. I urge all to at least try it.

  15. Hi Tina,
    like your blog, we’ve the same vision therefore I added your blog to my blogroll.
    If you will give a look to my latest video for personal development so come to my Blog:
    keep it going like this

  16. Simon

    I agree that looking for positive things is critical in living a happy life. But looking at negative things is also essential. I know how powerful and healing it is to admit emotions to yourself and work them through, finding deeper understanding.

    I also know how damaging it is not to do this. Obsessively looking on the bright side can repress emotions and cause great harm. Society requires this of us too much. When was the last time you felt it was unacceptable to loose your temper at your boss, or in public?

    The best thing to do in, say, a bad, non-fixable, work situation is to give your boss two fingers and walk out. Obsessively looking at the good will deny the reality and prop up a bad employer.

    A balance is needed.

    I suggest look at the bad, knowing that you are. Then make sure you look at the good. Weigh it up. Examine the bad to see how bad it really is. Be aware that there are different ways of looking at the same thing – try and see them. If the bad thing sticks – do something about it!

    Sort the problem out in your own mind, then get on with looking at the good.



    Hi Simon,

    You are absolutely right. There is a balance and we never want to blindly deny reality. We want to face all situations that comes to us with a positive outlook and not let our (sometimes impulsive) emotions over take us. All situations are only views as good or bad because we give them those labels. They are all experiences in which we interact with through life. Even ‘bad’ experiences can be turned into something enjoyable.

    Thanks for sharing your views! Very thought provoking.


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