“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”– Albert Einstein.

Approval Seeking.

The truth is everyone does it. The desire to belong is primal. Brene Brown says so, and I believe her.

It’s an evolutionary thing. In the days when we lived in caves, staying on good standing with the group meant food, fire and protection. As kids we learned pretty quickly we got what we wanted a lot faster when mom and dad were happy.

This is why, even today as adults living in the modern industrialized world, we still see disapproval as a threat. The brain triggers the body to go into a state of fight or flight. A snide comment by your boss; an under the breath chuckle by your sister-in-law, discovering you haven’t been invited to your friend’s wedding… the mere thought of disapproval can spark a physiological response that changes the body’s biochemistry.

This hyper alert state that prepares you to fight or flee is quite helpful in times of famine, drought, war, or physical attack, but can set us latte drinking modern day softies into a perpetual hyper alert state called “narrow focus.” When in “narrow focus” we’re constantly scanning the environment for “threats,” always apprehensive, always fearing attack.

When we live our lives in perpetual emergency mode, when we’re overly focused on fighting or fleeing external “threats,” we’re much more likely to overreact, get angry, become rigid, dogmatic or worse, violent. Let’s just say, we’re no fun to be around (kind of ironic, approval addicts, is it not?).

And when in narrow focus we get stuck. We focus on the problem – as if  hyper focus on the problem will help us arrive at a solution. It rarely does.

When we’re in narrow focus, no one in our lives gets the benefit of our full attention. We snap at our kids, we overreact to what our partner says, we avoid leaving the house in favor of sitting in front of the tv, we don’t bother checking in with mom.

What we want, most of the time, is to live in “open-focus.” In the words of Les Fehmi and Jim Robbins authors of The Open-Focus Brain,

“When we pay attention in a flexible way we are more accepting, comfortable, energetic, aware, healthy, productive, and in the flow. Full attention leads to creativity, spontaneity, acceptance, faith, empathy, integration, productivity, flexibility, efficiency, stress reduction, endurance, persistence, accuracy, perspective and compassion.

And this, my friends, is why your approval addiction is making you (no offense) stupid.

Do something about it.

The world will thank you for it.

P.S. Are you addicted to approval? Check out my latest telecourse!

 

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