The Power of Focusing On What You Want (How your brain's Reticular Activating System functions in your favor)

Reticular Activating System Function

Prefer audio? See Episode #71: "The Power of Focusing on What You Want", below. Rather readScroll past the podcast player to continue reading.

Imagine if you could have anything you wanted...

Literally -- imagine it.

Because if you do, then you'll be putting your brain's Reticular Activating System into function -- and that can be the difference between achieving your dreams, or living a life of quiet desperation.

In his book, "Getting Things Done", David Allen talks about how this works:

"When you focus on something--the vacation you're going to take, the meeting you're about to go into, the project you want to launch--that focus instantly creates ideas and thought patterns you wouldn't have had otherwise. Even your physiology will respond to an image in your head as if it were reality."

Did you catch that last line? 

Even your physiology will respond to an image in your head as if it were reality.

Let's talk a little more about that, shall we?

The Reticular Activating System

Back in May 1957, Scientific American published an article describing the discovery of the "reticular formation" at the base of the brain ... this is basically the gateway to your conscious awareness. In other words: it acts as a "switch" of sorts, to turn on your perceptions of ideas and data, the things that keeps you asleep even when music is playing but wakes you up if a special little baby cries in another room.

As David Allen notes in "Getting Things Done":

"Just like a computer, your brain has a search function--but it's even more phenomenal than a computer's. It seems to be programmed by what we focus on and, more primarily, what we identify with. It's the seat of what many people have referred to as the paradigms we maintain.


"We notice only what matches our internal belief systems and identified contexts. If you're an optometrist, for example, you'll tend to notice people wearing eyeglasses across a crowded room; if you're building contractor, you may notice the room's physical details,"


"If you focus on the color red right now and then just glance around your environment, if there is any red at all, you'll see even the tiniest bits of it." <--Try this and see for yourself!

LISTEN // Episode #71: The Power of Focusing on What You Want (How your brain's Reticular Activating System functions in your favor)


Create a Clear Picture of What You Want

Okay, so now that we know that *imagining* what we want can help us *get* what we want -- how do we do it? 

Here's what Dr. Maxwell Maltz, author of the old-school self-help classic, "Psycho-Cybernetics", has to say about it:

"Your automatic creative mechanism is teleological. That is, it operates in terms of goals and end results. Once you give it a definite goal, to achieve, you can depend upon its automatic guidance system to take you to that goal much better than 'you' ever could by conscious thought. 


"'You' supply the goal by thinking in terms of end results. Your automatic mechanism then supplies the means whereby."

You Get What You Focus On (Kinda)

Here's the deal: this is NOT about "thinking positive".

If you get lost in the woods without a map (or GPS) to help guide you back to where you need to be -- it doesn't matter how positive you think you are -- because unless you get a map, you're STILL gonna be lost. 

And if you only focus on "thinking positive", you'll just be happy about being lost.

In order to get back home, you need a map; you need guidance... You've gotta update your approach... And you absolutely need to take action.

If you want to achieve your goals, get your dream job, or attract the perfect partner in your life -- it doesn't matter how positive you think you are -- it won't matter if you're way of thinking is faulty. 

  • To fix your way of thinking, you need to envision a detailed desired outcome of what you want. 
  • Once you've done that, you've gotta take deliberate action towards that desired outcome. 

Unless you map out a detailed picture of what you want AND you combine that with action -- you'l be screwed; regardless of how much you try to "think positively" about it ... you're with me, right?

So, here's what you need to do:

  • STEP #1: Choose one area of your life (personal or professional)
  • STEP #2: Think about the best possible outcome/scenario that could occur if everything were to go exactly the way you want it to go (it never goes perfect, but don't worry about that right now)
  • STEP #3: Decide on the next action you need to take right now in order to make this happen for yourself (For example: Wanna start a business? Start researching how to get a business license. Want a new car? Go to the car dealership and test drive that bad boy.) 

FINAL STEP: Don't worry about the HOW for now. Just focus on the best possible WHAT. Once you do that, the how will begin to become clear.

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