The personal website of Chris Coyier

Focus on Good

In my latest stay at Hilton Head Health, one of the things that stuck with me is the idea of focusing on what is going well. It came at me in two different ways.

One was the concept of gratitude. Surely you are familiar with that word and what it means. But it’s also a bit of a movement (if you will) in healthy living circles. Books like this and articles like this give it life. I took a class on gratitude when I was there and heard from several people who said practicing gratitude was transformative for them. It’s simple: spending some time thinking about what is going well in your life and things you are grateful for. Perhaps even write them down.

The other way it came at me was through a physical training session. I learned earlier in the week that my swimming skills left something to be desired. I thought I had decent swimming skills but after taking a group class doing laps and being the worst in the class (of generally out-of-shape people) I learned otherwise. So I signed up to take a personal training session to learn how to swim properly.

There are dozens of little things to learn about swimming, even just the standard front crawl. For instance: get good goggles so you can see underwater which increases your comfort and confidence. Head down. Rotate your whole torso when taking a breath. Take the breath as you pull your arm back and create that pocket of air as your arm goes by. Keep your legs from falling down into the water with a stiff(ish) body. Kick your legs from the hip not the knees. Pull your hands all the way back to get a complete stroke. Keep your fingers together to cup the water. Any many more.

At some point all those things will fall into place and you’ll do them naturally without thinking. I would imagine, anyway. I’m not there yet. I need to consciously think about them to swim well. I often fail to get some most of them right and that gets frustrating.

After a poorly-swam and frustrating lap, my trainer would tell me “what went right on that lap?” What went right?! All I can think about is what went wrong. But I started to get it after a while. Focusing on what went right is far more useful. It keeps you from reveling in frustration. It helps cement a foundation to build from. It’s not just being clever or Captain Obnoxiously Positive, it’s just more effective.

I suspect this attitude of consciously focusing on what is going well is good not just for swimming lessons but every aspect of life. I intend to keep it up.