By Katherine Poehnert, M.Ed. Psych., PCC
I bet you probably saw the last part of this title, rolled your eyes, and thought “I am not reading any of this “law of attraction” malarkey. Well don’t worry, if you are still with me, what I am about to share is not in the realm of “Woo woo”, but rather, in the domain of neuroscience. That’s right – it’s about the brain- a part of the brain that, when primed, can be a leader’s best friend.
We have known for approximately the last 60 years or so that there is an area at the base of our brain known as the “reticular formation” … this is basically the gateway to your conscious awareness and a gatekeeper of sorts for all the information that flows into our brain. It has been estimated (Roger Bonn- Univ of California-San Diego) that our brain, on average, is hit with approximately 34 Gigabytes of content (approx. 100,000 words) per day! …..and this does not include all the information coming in through our 5 senses (colors, shapes, smells, tastes, kinesthetic feelings, etc.)
To quote American psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, “never in human history have our brains had to work so much information as we do today.”
Now, the brain has to be able to make heads or tails out of all this information, much of which is not relevant to us at any given moment. We do know when it comes to survival, the Reticular Activating System (RAS for short) is there to help us focus on whatever information we are receiving that directly relates to our survival (the smell of smoke, the sound of an approaching train, a newscast of a coming tornado, etc.).
The RAS is the command center for information relevant to you. It helps you focus on that information amid all of the sensory information which bombards you on a daily basis. If you have ever been in a busy airport or stadium, with all of the concomitant background noise, and your name is called out over the loudspeaker, the RAS immediately alerts you to pay attention, and filters information between your conscious mind (hearing your name) and your unconscious mind (“oh that’s my name- it must be important.”) One of the reasons it does this is because the RAS is concerned with anything that threatens your survival, as well as any information you may need immediately. We also know it responds to novelty, bringing your attention to anything new and different (keep this in mind for marketing or branding purposes!)
But what about the information that relates to our goals, to what we want as a leader and as a professional?
When we focus on what we want, we are more likely to get it….. (There’s that pesky Law of Attraction)….Think of deciding to buy a little red sports car….what do you start seeing everywhere? Yes, little red sports cars. Guess what… they have always been there, it’s just that you have primed your brain to notice them, because they are aligned with a goal or desire you have set for yourself. Of course, just noticing them does not make them appear in your driveway, but may lead to all kinds of information and connections (which require action on your part, of course), that may increase the likelihood you have one of those beauties in your garage.
So how can this great part of the brain be utilized as a leader? You are probably already guessing……
- Get clear on what outcomes, and goals you want in a particular situation or in general,
- “Prime” your brain by focusing on these daily (keep a list on your computer, use in a daily meditation, think about it while on the treadmill at the corporate gym…whatever works!)
- Visualize your desired outcome According to David Allen , author of Getting Things Done “Even your physiology will respond to an image in your head as if it were reality”
Your brain will start to notice opportunities, relationships, situations, etc. which will help you move towards the goals. Of course action has to be part of this equation as well, and an Executive Coach can help you create a plan and set up accountability to keep you on track!!
So, next time you see a little red sports car, think of this information you have read today and get your own RAS in gear to achieve the results you want!!
Kathy can consult with you on moving your desires from thought to reality!