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If You Go Looking For Something, You’ll Find It

November 21, 2017
If You Go Looking For Something, You'll Find It | Tiny Ambitions

As humans, we like to imagine we have a certain degree of control over our own lives. But, are we actually more suggestible than we’d like to imagine?

When I meditate, I use one specific semi-guided meditation from Joseph Goldstein in the 10% Happier App (which I highly recommend). In the meditation, about a third of the way through the session, Joseph says,

Become aware of different sensations in the body as they become predominant and call your attention away from the breath. Perhaps places of tightness or tension, or pressure, or warmth or coolness. Perhaps it’s an itching sensation or a tingling sensation. At that time, open to these bodily sensations. Opening to them, feeling them, being aware of how they change.

Recently, I noticed that whenever Joseph says this, my brain starts looking for a sensation to find – and it often finds one. Even if there’s wasn’t one there five seconds before.

I don’t know for sure if the sensation was there before the cue and I only noticed it when the meditation called attention to it or if my brain completely invented it on command. But, my money is on the latter.

And, this teeny, tiny bodily sensation got me thinking about how we frame questions and answers about our lives.

My basic hypothesis is that, if you go looking for something, you’ll find it.

If You Go Looking for Something, You'll Find it {Pin} | Tiny Ambitions

If I asked you “tell me one thing you don’t like about your job right now”, I’d bet you’d come up with at least one thing, if not more. Even if it was just a tiny thing, it would make it’s way into your consciousness because I planted the seed. Maybe you actually love your job and you find it incredibly rewarding. But, you still might find things to say you don’t like about it because I prompted you.

My point is, if you go looking for something to be discontented and unhappy about, your brain will be more than happy to connect those dots for you. Brains are super helpful like that.

Can the same be said for positive things? I’m not sure. I find it quite challenging to find the positives in things even though most people would consider me a happy person. I don’t want to go so far as to say that we are programmed to focus on the negative (although it is an evolutionary advantage to be able to accurately spot threats and dangers). But, I know it’s a much easier path for me to go down than finding the positive.

I also believe that most people’s (aka all people’s) lives are flawed in some way. And, I actually find those flaws quite beautiful, in their own way. No one’s life is 100% perfect, 100% of the time, no matter what their Instagram feed says. But, I do wonder how much of our angst and suffering is actually our own doing. I in no way mean people are to blame for their own lives. There are deep, systemic patterns and processes that are at fault in most of today’s injustices. I just mean, how often are we making our own day-to-day lives harder because we let our minds wander to the negative end of the pool?

If you go looking for something wrong with your job, your relationship, your body, your bank account – you’ll find it. Maybe you’ll completely invent it out of thin air like I apparently invent sensations during meditation. Or, maybe going down your mental rabbit hole is all you need to uncover something that is actually there.

The latter isn’t problematic. If you have a genuine issue in an area of your life that needs to be rectified, let the rabbit hole start the resolution process.

Inventing problems where there aren’t any – now that’s a different story.

In a minimalist context, I’ve seen this manifest in myself as an internally created pressure to own the least amount of ‘stuff’ as possible. But, is it actually a problem that I own 20 pairs of shoes? (I don’t, but just go with me on this). No, of course, it’s not.

Stuff on its own is never the problem. It’s just stuff. It only becomes problematic when it gets in the way of you living your best life, whatever that looks like for you. That’s why I think it’s important to integrate your own motives in your narrative when you begin decluttering your life. Are you telling yourself that you can only own X number of items of clothing because some book/blog/website said so? Or, do you want to whittle down your wardrobe because you want to reduce stress in the morning when you’re getting ready and actually want to enjoy the clothes you do own?

The latter is clearly YOUR choice. You made that decision on your own terms, in your own time, and in a way that makes the most sense for you. The former is influenced by some external force that may or may not understand your daily reality. That’s not to say you can’t learn things from other minimalists, but their minimalist journey will never be yours.

There will always be external influences in your life (both positive and negative) that impact our decisions, both consciously and unconsciously. I think the best we can do is be highly aware of our own decisions and why we are making them.

My meditation practice has served as an important lesson for the rest of my life. I don’t want to think I’m so suggestible that a voice in an app can say the word “itch”, and then I feel an itch.

It makes me wonder if I’m playing ‘follow the leader’ in other areas of my life. I certainly hope not.

Has something like this ever happened to you? Do you think we have infinite control over our lives? Let me know in the comments!

If you missed last week’s episode of Tiny Bites, all about how the past can be a useful tool in our present, you can listen to it here. You can also catch up on old episodes of Tiny Bites here

Image Credit: Tiny Ambitions


  • Terri December 15, 2017 at 8:54 am

    It’s kind of like when you decide you want to buy a certain kind of car, you start seeing them everywhere whereas the week before, you might not have. I totally agree – if you’re looking for problems, you’ll find them. If you look for positive changes in your life, the opportunities will start presenting themselves to you!

    I have found that not watching TV, or very, very little anyway (I don’t have cable, just whatever my air-antenna can pick up) I want for so little. And I volunteer at a food pantry once a month. If that doesn’t make you realize how lucky you have things, nothing will.

    Love your blog, btw!

    • Britt December 15, 2017 at 8:56 am

      Omg I always notice certain kinds of cars in big groups! I thought I was the only one. I think it’s definitely harder to look for positive changes but it’s still doable! You just have to practice. Thanks for reading, Terri!

  • MsMidLife November 24, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    It’s so easy to go to the negative, isn’t it? Some days, the positive is just harder to find than it should be. Of course, a lot of our negative thoughts are really minor issues compared to people living in constant strife, poverty, abuse and so forth. Nevertheless they are real thoughts, and can bring us down fairly quickly. Reminding myself of my privilege (Canadian, homeowner, work, family, rights, etc) helps. Practicing gratitude each evening for the good things in my day helps tremendously. Helping others, especially children, also works wonders. Your post is thought provoking and I will be on the watch for my own suggestibility!

    • Britt November 24, 2017 at 5:27 pm

      I agree! Privilege definitely plays a big part in the kind of negative thoughts you get sucked into. A lot of our collective problems wouldn’t be considered problems by people dealing with much worse. But you’re right, that’s doesn’t kick those thoughts out of your head. Thanks for reading!

  • Violet November 23, 2017 at 4:21 pm

    Agreed, great post Britt 🤗
    In my twenties, I definitely felt & believed I was in control of my life. Then I was involved in an accident that means I live with a spinal cord injury (& wheelchair) and took the life of my boyfriend. Two months out of rehab & my brother passed away & 5 months after that my dad passed away (& my mum lost her life when I was a kid). So, then I felt like I had zero control of my life. But some years passed & I have been meditating for 3 yrs & just graduated as a meditation teacher… So now I feel again like I do have control of my life….. For me, this feeling of control can come & go, depending on what we choose to believe each day, each hour & each minute 💙🌻🌈

    • Britt November 23, 2017 at 6:43 pm

      Wow, thank you for sharing your story. I can’t imagine what you’ve been through. I’m glad that you’re in a good place now. Congrats on becoming a meditation teacher- that’s amazing!

  • Amy @ More Time Than Money November 23, 2017 at 3:32 am

    Great post Britt. I can completely relate. On one of the regular meditations I do I’ve noticed that I wriggle in the same place overtime. I’d never clicked, but it is the power of suggestion.
    Suggestion can also be a power for good too. For the last wee while, I’ve created a gratitude practice. It’s very simple, every Thursday I do a social media post sharing one thing I am grateful for that week. It’s set me deliberately looking for things that I am grateful for and I now I see them everywhere.

    • Britt November 23, 2017 at 6:50 am

      That’s such a good idea Amy! I think you’re right- if our brains can be suggestible for the negative, surely we can trick them into being positive too. Thanks for reading!

  • Lisa | Simple Life Experiment November 22, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    This is a great discussion Britt and your string of thoughts behind it is very interesting! This has really got me thinking. I suspect that the suggestibility you are discussing here is not only the reason we invent negative things out of thin air (and on the flip side, also have the capacity to find the positives in life, if we consciously do so!), but also the reason the human brain is so susceptible to advertising. Marketers seem to be able to create false needs in us out of nowhere, something I think we can all attest to after going through our possessions and finding things we have never used but which seemed to be absolutely indispensable at the time of purchase.

    I like it that you have linked this idea back to minimalism, too. I think it’s so true that others’ minimalist journeys will never be ours and we mustn’t forget that. We are all under so much pressure to keep up appearances that even minimalists are not immune, even if our minimalism helps us to be aware of this pressure. It’s important that we all (minimalists and non-minimalists alike) identify when being inspired by others’ behaviour/lifestyles becomes more than that and ends up being keeping up with the Joneses.

    A very interesting post as always Britt!!

    • Britt November 22, 2017 at 8:49 pm

      That’s a really good point Lisa! I hadn’t considered the marketing/advertising connection but I think you’re absolutely right!

      As for keeping up with the Joneses- I’ve noticed more recently a trend on showing off your minimalist space like “I’m a great minimalist and this is what my house looks like”. And I have no patience for that. That just creates the illusion that minimalism has to look a certain way and creates expectations just like the ‘normal’ consumerist lifestyle does.

      That’s not to say I don’t like home tours, because I do. Just not ones that are clearly trying to convince you their minimalist lifestyle is better than yours. Cait Flanders (my blogging idol) said in a post this summer “houses are meant to be lived in, not looked at”. And I couldn’t agree more!

      Thanks for your insightful comment as always!

      • Lisa | Simple Life Experiment November 24, 2017 at 12:40 am

        Agreed, I don’t have any time for that kind of thing either! That’s a great quote from Cait Flanders, and my thought exactly when I pass by the covers of those home decor kind of magazines when I’m at the shops. It would be refreshing to see some spaces that actually look livable. Home tours are fascinating, but only the realistic ones!

    • Amy @ More Time Than Money November 23, 2017 at 3:24 am

      This made me think about advertising too! It’s all about suggesting you need stuff you hadn’t thought about before.

  • rhinophile November 21, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    Hi Britt, that pull towards negative thought has been something I have pondered over the years. It was something I especially noticed when my mother’s dementia took over more of her memories and she only seemed to remember the ‘bad’ things that had happened. A friend pointed out to me recently that there really is such a thing as a negative bias in the way the brain works. I was pleased to hear this, because this means we can do something about it. And it IS a hangover from earlier times as you acknowledged above! It seems some people are good at developing a workable balance between positive and negative responses, while there are others that may need to make more of an effort to counteract that automatic response. Handy to know, don’t you think? ☺️

    • Britt November 22, 2017 at 12:11 pm

      Absolutely! We can rework our brain patterns with a little bit of effort. And it’s well worth it for the change we’d get out of it! Thanks for sharing!

    Hey! I'm Britt. I write about living a tiny, simple, intentional life. Because life doesn't need to be lived big.