You Get More Of What You Notice

This concept is not original to me (there is truly very little new under the sun) but I've found the idea that "you get more of what you notice" is so helpful that not only do I encourage my clients to put it into practice but I try to do the same in my day-to-day life.

Some growth happens whether or not we notice it. The grass in my yard goes about its business regardless of whether I pay it much attention. But when I start to notice it more it's almost inevitable that I'm going to take actions to keep it looking nice: I may pull some weeds, spread some fertilizer and water it when rains are scarce.

This same principle tends to be universal. When I start to notice all the problems in my life it seems like they are all around me.  But when I cultivate an "attitude of gratitude" I begin noticing plenty of things to be grateful about.

Focusing on problems can be a way to formulate solutions, but if done without limits it can also result in a highly skilled ability to predominantly notice the things that are wrong.  This can result in a very unbalanced perspective.

People come into counseling or therapy because they are wanting to deal with what is wrong with one or more aspects of their life. Nobody comes to talk because things are going well. Part of my job to help identify the problem areas of a person's life and develop a plan for overcoming these obstacles. At the same time I encourage my clients to also pay attention to the parts of their lives that are going well, and especially to areas that are getting better. Many people find that simply by looking for areas of improvement they start to notice positive changes start to develop.

I'm not advocating turning a blind eye to legitimate difficulties and simply pretending they're not there: such extreme denial can cause a person to ignore something that really needs to be dealt with directly and resolved. But people who can keep in mind that "you get more of what you notice" try to remember to look on the bright side of any situation, to find that which leads to growth in the midst of their struggles, and to recognize the invaluable lessons that even serious problems can contain. This simple step can be profoundly helpful in cultivating greater happiness and purpose in life.


Bill Herring, LCSW, CSAT is an Atlanta psychotherapist and counselor.  In addition to his general practice he specializes in helping people recover from the damage caused by serial infidelity, chronic cheating, sex and porn addiction and other types of ongoing sexual behavior problems.