A comment on focus

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New Year’s, 2258. Your year was probably better than theirs.

Over at Facebook, famous space commander Chris Hadfield has posted a wonderful list of genuinely good news from 2016 to offset all those gloomy year end retrospectives. I think it’s a must-read even if you’re not all that gloomy, because a lot of those stories are really cool, and if you’re like me you probably missed a lot of them the first time around. However, I do take issue with Hadfield’s intended takeaway.

“If you refocus on the things that are working,” Hadfield writes, “your year will be better than the last.” In fact, many of the stories he uses to show how things are working are about people recognizing that some thing or other is not working, and then successfully doing something about it. Focusing on the things that are working is not a good way to make things work, and keeping only the good things in view means that there will eventually be fewer good things to keep in view. Focusing on the good because it makes us happy also ignores the fact that there can be bad reasons to be happy and good reasons to be unhappy; as one of my teachers used to say, there is a big difference between feeling well and being well. That’s not to say that we should wallow in gloom either. Instead of resolving to focus on the good or to focus on the bad, let’s just try to focus on what’s there.

Here’s hoping you all have good reason to be happy in 2017!

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