I read about a fascinating research study done by Vicki Medvec, a professor at Northwestern University. She studied Olympic medalists and discovered that Bronze medalists were happier than Silver medalists.
Here’s why. Medvec found that Silver medalists tended to focus on how close they came to winning gold so they weren’t satisfied with silver. Bronze medalists tended to focus on how close they came to not winning a medal at all so they were just happy to be on the medal stand.
I think that study reveals a fascinating aspect of human nature: your focus determines your reality. How we feel isn’t determined by objective circumstances.
If that was the case, Silver Medalists would be happier than Bronze medalists because they had an objectively better result. But how we feel isn’t determined by our objective circumstances. How we feel is determined by our subjective (personal) focus.
Here’s another way of saying it: your internal attitudes are more important than your external circumstances.
John Milton said it best: “The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make a Heaven out of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”
All of us know people who can find something good to focus on even in the worst of circumstances. And all of us know someone who can find something bad to focus on even in the best of circumstances.
The principle is this: we tend to see what we’re looking for. In the Christian world there tends to be two basic types of people: complainers and worshippers.
Complainers can always find something to complain about.
Worshippers can always find something to praise God about.
All of us develop ideas about everything all the time. Then we look for evidence to support what we believe and ignore evidence to the contrary.
For example, if you decide you don’t like someone you’ll notice everything that is wrong with that person. And you’ll probably ignore anything you could potentially like about them.
The flipside is true as well. If you’re head-over-heels in love with someone you tend to only notice those things you love about them.
We see is what we’re looking for.
What does that have to do with worship? A worshipper makes a pre-decision to look for something to praise God about even in the direst of circumstances.