Relentless Solutions Focus with Dr. Ellen Reed

May 21, 2024

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Your problems aren’t the whole problem. There, I said it.

No, I’m not trying to dismiss whatever very real problem you are struggling with right now but I am here to tell you, your thinking around the problem might be keeping you stuck.

We are wired to focus on the problem. It’s not your fault. It’s science. It’s your default. It was actually useful when we were evolving as a species. But we aren’t fighting for food or carving out caves for shelter anymore. We have plenty of modern resources now but our brains are still thinking like we are living ‘back in the day.’ The result is higher than necessary levels of stress and anxiety.

But there is a way to retrain your brain…. It’s a technique I learned about in a new book called Relentless Solutions Focus by Dr. Jason Selk and Dr. Ellen Reed 

Dr. Ellen Reed has her doctorate in experimental psychology. That means she spent years conducting studies and doing research to develop strategies that can help us live better and get out of our own way. She’s a science nerd like us!

Now, I’m an admitted perfectionist with a high achiever mentality but when you mix that with this problem-centric way of thinking it can be incredibly limiting. I know I’m not the only one.

Dr. Reed recently joined me on the Stop Faking Fine podcast. The definition of relentless solution focus is just the mind’s ability to stay focused on solutions, especially in the face of adversity. A key element is optimism. Before you blow that off and roll your eyes, listen to this. Optimistic people live on average 14 years longer than those who aren’t optimistic.

We get into the research in this podcast episode, and how the stress hormone cortisol relates to it. I talk all the time about cortisol but I think Dr. Good summed it up brilliantly when she said, “Cortisol significantly limits our intelligence. It significantly limits our creativity. And it makes us feel like garbage. So we literally become dumber and less able to do something about the problem that we’re thinking about to begin with.”

So let’s do something about it!

  1. Recognize. Tune your radar to be able to recognize when your focus is on problems. stress, worry, anger, guilt, and depression are clear indicators.
  2.  Replace. The only way to turn our focus away from our problems is to replace that thinking with something else.  We dive into how to do this in the podcast. Here’s the cool thing. When you cross the line from the problem side to the solution slide, you actually release dopamine and norepinephrine, which are our happy and energizing hormones.
  3. Retrain. Take daily steps to retrain your brain to a relentless solution focus mindset. We cannot just tell ourselves not to think about something. You can’t just tell yourself to suck it up, or shake it off. That’s because our brains can only fully focus on one thing at a time.  

Keeping a success log can help you make this shift. Answering these three questions each day is a start.

  • What three things did I do well today in the last 24 hours? 
  • What’s one thing I want to improve in the next 24 hours ? 
  • What is one action step I can take that can help make that improvement?  

When it comes to solving our problems… thinking we have to solve everything, all at once is where we slide into overwhelm. Instead, try just looking to improve the situation inch by inch.  

The truth is RSF or Relentless Solution Focus, isn’t gonna take away your problems. You know, that’s life. BUT it is going to allow you to better deal with the problems that are guaranteed in life.  

I'm Dana Lewis

Hi there!

When my fit husband died at forty from a cancerous tumor with little to no symptoms, it left stress to blame and lots of questions to be answered. As I began searching for answers, I learned about the microbiome and the power of this second brain. Ten years later, I am honored to be able to take what began as my pain and share it with you.