I had a good example of how our reticular activating system works recently. I watched a programme the other night which had a panel of 3 well-known faces and out of the 3, one I didn’t like from hearing her speak on previous occasions, one I hadn’t heard of and the final one I did know and didn’t have any strong feelings about one way or the other.
The one I hadn’t heard of made some interesting points. The one I didn’t have any strong opinion of I found made some really interesting points. The one I didn’t like spoke rubbish from beginning to end!
The following day I was attending a birthday lunch of which the only people I knew were my husband and our host, the birthday girl herself. This never bothers me as I always enjoy those rare occasions when hubby and I get to go out on our own and spend some time together but we’re not completely antisocial so we chatted to other guests as we waited to go in for lunch.
Speaking to one fellow guest, the subject of the television programme came up in relation to something we were talking about and this lady commented on something that was said by the member of the panel that I didn’t like. It was a valid comment and fitted in entirely with what we had all just agreed was a good thing. I was shocked. Had I watched the same programme? I couldn’t recall this comment at all and I’m sure they didn’t say anything remotely logical or sensible throughout the entire programme.
This is a lovely example of how our Reticular Filter or Reticular Activating System works. Your brain can’t possibly manage the huge number of pieces of information that we are bombarded with at any given moment so it filters according to need, safety and a number of other factors. One of these factors is our belief system and therefore if you already have beliefs locked into your subconscious, then that filter will only flag up the stuff that supports it, allowing anything else to drop through without you taking any notice of it. This is largely how political opinions work – if you don’t already have an allegiance to a particular political party, you’ll judge everything said and done as it happens. If you do have a strong connection to one of them, you’ll happily tune in to the good of your chosen party and ignore the bad because you’ve essentially already made your mind up no matter what.
I had already made my mind up about that panellist; she wasn’t going to say anything that I would agree with so when she did say something relevant, I missed it.
You can use this to your advantage; when you set goals, your filter is on high alert to pick up opportunities to help you achieve those goals. When you aren’t specific, you miss those opportunities because they sift through the net.
This is a part of your brain that is designed to help you so use it to your advantage.