Wednesday, October 27, 2010


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Did you see the moonwalking bear on the first viewing? Most people don’t.

What happened? How did most people miss the BIG moonwalking bear?

The secret lies in the workings of our Reticular Activation System or RAS. It is the part of our brain that automatically filters out what we consider unimportant to us, and brings to our attention, only things that we consider important to us.

Because of the way our RAS works, we will see what we are focusing on (consider important) but will miss even BIG things like the moonwalking bear, if we are not focusing on it.

The way our RAS works has far reaching implications on the success or failure in all areas of our lives e.g. relationships, health, wealth, career etc.

This post is the first of a series of postings on a success formula that is based on the way our brain works.

Our RAS plays a central role in our brain based success formula.

Our RAS is located in the brain stem at the base of the brain. It is shaped like our little finger and is about the same size. Our RAS consists of a network of neurons and neural fibres running through the brain stem. These neurons radiate from brain stem and connect with other parts of our brain.

Our RAS is involved in many critical functions including breathing and the beating of the heart, sleep and waking, and behavioural motivation.

For behavioural motivation, the most important function of the RAS is its control of consciousness – its ability to consciously focus attention on something.

All of our senses - sight, sound, touch, taste and smell, gather information and send this information to our brain for processing. Our brain receives millions of bits of information every second.

To cope with this constant torrent of information, our brain extracts only what is important to us at any given moment. It has an system to sort this information and that is our reticular activating system or RAS.

Our RAS functions like a sorting office, evaluating incoming information and picking out only those that need our conscious attention. The rest are shunted to our unconscious. If we had to attend to all incoming information at once, we would simply break down.

Have you ever noticed that once you have decided on the make and colour of car you want to buy, every other car on the road is the make and colour you are thinking of buying?

That is your RAS at work. Filtering out the other cars (the irrelevant information) and bringing the car of your thoughts to the forefront of your mind i.e. your conscious mind. The numbers of that particular car have not increased since you took that decision; it’s just your filtering system or RAS in action.

Our RAS acts as the filter between our five senses and our conscious mind.

Our RAS recieves instructions from our conscious mind on what to leave in and what to leave out. For example, the instruction might be: "I am thinking of buying that car, take note of them on the road, I want to make sure I really do like its looks".

Our RAS gets to work and flags up that instruction as an important "TAKE NOTE" thought.

Another example.

Remember when you were waiting to board your flight at a busy, noisy airport passenger terminal?

All the noise - hundreds of waiting people milling around chattering, others dashing to the gates, boring background music, yelling taxi touts, constant interruption by announcements in multiple languages of last calls, lost and found items, lost children. How much of this noise do we consciously pay attention to? Not much.

But when a new announcement comes over the public address system - saying our name or our flight. Our RAS picks that up and suddenly our attention is full on.

Our RAS recieved the instructions from our conscious mind: "Listen out for anyone saying my name or my flight".

Our RAS gets to work and flags up that instruction as an important "TAKE NOTE" thought.

As you saw, the good news is that we can deliberately programme our RAS to look out for things that will support our goal.

When we set a goal that we are passionate about, our RAS will focus our mind. We suddenly become aware of things that we may not have paid any attention to previously, but are now important and relevant to us and our goal.

In future postings, we will explore how we can capitalise on the natural functioning of our RAS to create a powerful brain based success formula.

1 comment:

  1. Hm...this is the theretical part is it?
    Quite easy to read and understand!
    Keep going!