What's on Your Radar?
How the Reticular Activating System reinforces our beliefs and impressions.
In my previous article, we addressed mindset. Specifically, what things do you tell yourself when you undertake a challenge?
Do you believe in yourself or do you apply limiting beliefs that reduce your effectiveness (or possibly keep you from making an effort at all)? In catchy terms: What we believe, we achieve.
The Reticular Activating System (RAS) is a key component in creating these outcomes. Understanding how it functions and how we can re-train it to work for us is critical in taking control of our lives.
The RAS is a cluster of nerves in the brain stem. It is believed to control many unconscious actions such as breathing, sleep and your heartbeat, among others.
It also acts as a filter for our consciousness. It blocks out unwanted stimuli while focusing on those things upon which we wish to direct our attention.
Many people experience the effects of the RAS when they buy a new car. Prior to the purchase, they may have only seen the car on TV or ridden in one driven by a friend. After buying the car, they suddenly notice that the car seems to be at every street corner and traffic light.
This is because the car is now in what I call our Sphere of Awareness. What is in our Sphere of Awareness, or on our radar, is what we perceive about our world and ourselves.
Just bought a new car? Now you see it everywhere.
Just got mad at yourself for making a mistake? Now you focus on all of your other short-comings as they take hold and loom over you.
Just closed a new business deal for millions? Now you only see your successes and look for the next challenge to conquer.
Remember the quotation from Ford, “The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he cannot are both correct...” Our thoughts about our ability to achieve are directly linked to our ability to be successful.
We develop these beliefs in ourselves at an early age, then reinforce them with our behaviors. Beliefs that are possibly initiated with a dramatic, shocking event in our youth are secured in our psyche through repetition as we prove to ourselves that we are right about ourselves... Over and over and over.
Punished and told you were bad as a child for voicing your opinion to your parent? You may find that later in life you have a difficult time speaking up for yourself or adding your expertise to a discussion.
Take a few moments and examine how you talk to yourself internally. Listen to your inner voice, your inner critic.
Do you tell yourself you are a loser or a winner? How do you feel about being more successful than you currently are?
If you find you are answering in the negative, there is hope. Your RAS can be re-trained to see success instead of limitation. Consider it to be like the purchase of another new car: the old one just wasn't fun to drive, so you traded it in for a sportier model.
To begin the process of retraining your RAS, you first need to focus on your successes every day. No matter how small. One of my favorite books for this process is The Five Minute Journal. (LINK TO AMAZON)
In literally just five minutes per day, you can retrain your brain away from overly negative thinking.
When I used the journal, I noticed a perceptible difference in my mindset within 10 days. I was focused on my strengths, my belief in myself was stronger and the negativity that surrounded me no longer had any lasting power.
I haven't looked back since.
Through this process, hypnosis was a key for me. Bypassing the negative thoughts in my conscious mind, I was able to work directly with my subconscious to reframe my focus from self-doubt to self-confidence. Hypnosis also helped to secure that feeling in my mind.
As you control what is on your radar, you can take the next step, which is to chart a clearer path to your goals. Not only will you make your path easier by removing obstacles, but you will be more motivated to begin new tasks because you will be entering into them with a success mindset.
Next week: More on refocusing to the positive.