Wednesday, June 22, 2011


“We can always choose to perceive things differently. You can focus on what's wrong in your life, or you can focus on what's right.
~Marianne Williamson

After reflecting on yesterday's post concerning fears, I recalled a story that I oftentimes share with others.

Several years ago I attended a Promise Keepers conference in Birmingham, Alabama. One of the speakers shared a brilliantly simple story about focus. I will paraphrase the story below:
My 6th grade son came home from school last week and he was very upset. He said that he couldn’t stop thinking of curse words. He heard some of his friends say these words and he just could not stop thinking about them. He was very upset.
So, I told him to close his eyes and think about a giant Red Elephant in his mind. Once he had this clearly in his mind, I told him for the next 30 seconds that I did NOT want him to think about this Red Elephant. Then, I said, “Go!”
After 30 seconds, I asked him how that worked out. My son said, “Dad, all I could think about was that Red Elephant. No matter how hard I tried, that’s all I could think about.”
“You’re right, son,” I said. “It is very hard to not think of something by effort. Let’s try another experiment. For the next 30 seconds, I want you to think about a Green Elephant. Go!”
After 30 seconds, his son said, “Dad, that was so easy. As long as I thought about the Green Elephant there was no space for the Red Elephant.”
I said, “Son, this is a very valuable lesson. You can’t stop thinking about the Red Elephant, but you can replace it with the Green Elephant.”
What dominates your thoughts? Have you tried, without success, to not think about it? That might be the wrong approach. Try replacing the thought with a more positive, empowering thought.

Your replacement thought might be scripture, a quote, or a picture you focus on in your mind’s eye. The type of Green Elephant that you focus on is not the point – the fact that you choose to focus on a Green Elephant is.

Below are a couple of Green Elephants that I use on a daily basis when fear begins to surface:
  • Scripture. One of my favorite Green Elephants is Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  
  • Songs. When I'm particularly fearful, I hum "Amazing Grace" to myself. I think I started this after I saw an interview with Orel Hershiser (former Major League pitcher) years ago and he said he hummed "Amazing Grace" in between innings to stay calm.
  • Quotes. One of my favorites is by Albert Einstein: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."
  • Think back on challenging times in my life when I persevered.
  • Think about my wife and how God brought her to me.  
  • Think about Jesus Christ on the Cross and all that it encompasses.
        Life is too sweet to allow fear to dominate us. Take the time to create your Green Elephants today and make a conscious choice about what you focus on. 

        Question: What are some of your Green Elephants? Please share below.

        1 comment:

        Anonymous said...

        G. Cargill

        Thanks it is so important to focus on the "right" thing. Often, we think of life in ways that are not important, and sometimes they invade thinking. Having a favorite hymn to hum or a favorite Bible verse will keep us on the right track.