What you’re thinking about is expanding

photo by kalleboo

Have you ever had the experience of shopping for a new car, where you finally decide on THE car that you really want to buy.  Let’s say it’s a new Honda sedan…and at that point, you suddenly started noticing all of the Honda sedans on the road – they are everywhere!

The reality is that the number of Hondas on the road didn’t change from one day to the next, you just tuned your Reticular Activating System!

The Reticular Activating System is the part of your brain that helps you filter out the unimportant stuff going on around you…and conversely focus on the important stuff.  Without that filter, you’d be overwhelmed with stimuli and likely lose the ability to function, so it’s an important part of your brain that most of us don’t know anything about!

However the good news about the Reticular Activating System is that it can be programmed.  When you were buying your Honda, you decided that Honda sedans were important and by doing so you set your filter and you started noticing the Hondas that were out there…whereas previously they didn’t make the cut!

Another good example of this phenomena is the ability that we all have to hear our name spoken from across a crowded room, despite a dozen conversations going on around you at the same time.  Your name is important to you, and therefore your filters are set to pick it up…even in noisy circumstances, picking out that one unique sound out of hundreds being processed every minute.

You can experiment with this sometime – come up with a specific image that you likely could see during your day.  Maybe it’s men wearing a red tie, or a woman with a gold watch, something plausible but not common.  Fix that image in your mind and write down the description on a piece of paper 2 or 3 times – then count the number of times that you notice that imagery as you go through your day.  I think you’ll be surprised at how often you see things.

What you focus on expands

There’s a universal truth saying out there that ‘What you focus on expands’ which ties directly into the programming of your Reticular Activating System.

If you are focused on negativity and problems, you will find more of the same.

However if you are focused on opportunities and positive outcomes, you’re going to see more of those as you go through your day.

The kicker is that you are limited to the number of things that you can key on…so if you choose to focus on the negative, you lose the option of also focusing on the positive (and vice versa).  In other words, if you find yourself feeling negative and noticing all of the problems in the world, you can make the conscious choice to notice the positive and turn things around!

On a more tangible level, you can also train the filter to help you notice specific things that might otherwise go unnoticed.  As an example, let’s say you are looking for a friendly banker to build a relationship with in the hopes of borrowing money in the future for your business.  If you create a specific goal to meet a friendly business banker (and write it down…because that’s how you train your Reticular Activating System) then you will start noticing more business bankers that might have slipped your notice previously.

What are you focusing on?  Do you consciously choose to look for opportunities?  Do you hang out with people who are negative or positive?  You get to choose what you focus on…and by consciously choosing you set yourself on the path of doing important things!

Napoleon Hill said it best when he talked about this a long time ago when he was working on Think and Grow Rich:

“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve. “

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – have you ever seen examples of deciding to really focus and look for something and being pleasantly surprised when you found it?  How about your thoughts on the importance of a positive outlook versus a negative one?  Let me know what you’re thinking in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach