focusing illusion

That phrase jumped from the page of a magazine article I read recently. It intrigued me enough to drive me to Google to find out all about it. Feel free to do that for yourself if you wish more than the light explanation I give here.

In essence, a focusing illusion occurs when one looks to some potential future event or situation with the mindset that “if only” that would occur, everything would be okay. (Maybe even wonderful.)

That leads to two problems. The first is that a focusing illusion effects the way you see everything else that borders on that illusion. The second is that if one actually accomplishes that future event or situation, it will not be the expected panacea.

Let me illustrate the first. I stopped in a convenience store the other day and overheard the customer in front of me tell the clerk, “My friend bought a lottery ticket a month ago that won him $10,000. Now he’s spending hundreds of dollars every week expecting it to happen again. It’s like he can’t stop.” His focusing illusion is that “if only” he could hit the big jackpot, his life would be great. Therefore, his judgment about spending money — BIG money — on lottery tickets is no longer reasonable. Technically we say it this way, focusing illusion leads to cognitive bias. In “Southernese” that means that focusing on what you think you want leads to poor decisions about what you have now.

As to the second problem, many studies indicate that quite a few people whose financial status changes drastically because of lottery winnings wind up in financial and emotional distress. No matter what one thinks would be the “if only” that would make life great, it never does. Life keeps on as life. Short term happiness for getting what you crave finally turns into daily routines that don’t include that emotional high.

So what is your “if only” that you focus on? Changed spouse? Cinderella or Prince Charming falling in love with you? Getting the job of your dreams? It’s okay to want those, but it’s foolish to think that getting any of them will bring you joy, peace, and love for ever and ever. Life is still life; good, bad, and ugly.

The true way to find joy, peace, and love is through the Spirit, not through a dream fulfilled.