As busy professionals, we want to use our precious time in the most effective way possible, especially when it comes to achieving our goals.
Understanding how your brain works and how to leverage your brain’s natural tendencies for your highest benefit is key.
There are specific tools and strategies you can start using today to ensure you’re working with your brain and not against it for faster, greater results.
One of the most important parts of your brain is the Reticular Activating System or RAS. It’s the filter between your conscious and subconscious mind, only letting the most important information into your awareness (conscious) and screening out what’s not important.
There’s so much information coming at us these days and your conscious mind can only focus on so many things at once. So the RAS determines what you’ll notice and pay attention to – that’s its job.
It does this because the function of the RAS, just like much of the brain, is to keep us alive and safe. It deletes and doesn’t have us spend any energy on all the white noise.
Basically, it focuses on what’s important, and is directly responsible for how much reality you consciously experience. That explains why two people in the same staff meeting, for example, can have very different recollections of what was said or what happened because their respective brains (RAS) filtered out what wasn’t important to each of them.
The RAS is the reason that when you learn a new word, you start hearing it everywhere. Or when you’re at a loud, crowded party or event, you can hear someone shout your name over all the talking; your unconscious mind knows your name is important, and it gets past the RAS screen to where you consciously hear it despite all the noise.
Another example of the RAS is when you buy a new car. Now you see that same make and model everywhere you go, in the parking garage at work, on the daily commute, even in your neighborhood. Were these cars not around you before? No, they were, but now your RAS deems it important enough for you to notice, because you own the same car.
Over time the RAS learns what will and won’t keep us safe and creates pathways for these “safe” things – this is how patterns, habits and self-talk are made.
But how does the RAS determine what’s “safe”? How does it know if it’s creating a good habit or a bad habit? That’s where we get to step in, take some control and fine tune things.
How to Leverage Your RAS
Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of our RAS allows us to work with our brains and train and leverage them to our advantage. We can control what we pay attention to and when we do this, the RAS has no choice but to treat that item as important.
Keep this in mind when goal setting: Once you prioritize a goal, stay emotionally charged to it, and focus on it consistently, the people and resources that help you attain it will become clear to you. You don’t have to plan out all the details of how you’ll achieve your goals when you first set them. Have faith that your RAS will do its job and make you aware of what you need to know and do along the way.
Some of us call these synchronicities, or the Universe or God lining things up for us: putting the right person or thing in our path.
We see this all the time. You might be having some random conversation at work and someone says exactly what you needed to hear, like some advice on how to be more organized with your daily schedule. You may have heard the same advice before, but now it’s important because it will support your goal to have more balance in your personal time, so you “heard” it this time.
Here are some specific strategies you can begin using today to leverage the power of your brain.
1. Get really clear about your goals and focus on them, in great detail, on a regular and consistent basis.
Write them down every day, or put them on post it notes where you can review them every day. You have to give your RAS something to go on.
If you focus on what you want, like phenomenal health, a fulfilling career, a great income and loving relationships, your RAS will be working with you and helping to make you aware of more of those things. If you consistently focus on the opposite, like worrying about bills or getting sick again, you’ll unfortunately get more of that.
2. Visualize every day.
Visualization is a great tool for retraining your subconscious mind. To get the most out of visualization, you must feel and experience a situation as if it were real, as if you’ve already achieved your goal.
Include details, imagery, people’s reactions, how specifically you’re feeling in that moment, where in your body do you feel it, what are you hearing, what are you seeing, what other things are now available too because of it. Make the image really big, as if you’re watching it on a huge movie screen.
The more real and detailed and emotion-provoking the better.
Your RAS can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what you’re imagining, so it will act on it as if it’s reality, and start bringing more of that into your awareness.
3. Say your affirmations.
Affirmations are positive statements, in the present tense, and specific to supporting your goals. They are most effective when said out loud, on a regular basis, and with positive emotions tied to them (you can feel it).
Some examples are: “My body is strong, healthy and full of energy”, “I love the work I do and am paid well for it” or “I’m so blessed to have all these loving and supportive people in my life”.
The RAS will kick in, mark these statements as important and will create a new pathway for you to follow in accordance with this new belief.
4. Form new habits and stick with them consistently for at least 28 days.
Help your RAS create new pathways by sticking with your new habits; it takes about 28 days for our brains to build these new neural pathways. The RAS likes these paths of least resistance and will prioritize and use them efficiently once created; that’s what makes it easier to stick to something once it becomes a habit.
There are many good habits that support the function of your brain. Here are some of my favorites.
- Meditation calms the mind and helps release any mental blocks or limitations you may be challenged with. Aim for at least 5 to 10 minutes of meditation each morning to start and building to 20 to 30 minutes once or twice per day.
- Reduce or remove the stress in your life. Take some time to evaluate the root cause of it, and either eliminate it or reduce whatever it is. If you get stressed because you’re late to work, plan to get up and arrive at work 15 minutes earlier every day. If you have friends at work that you have coffee or lunch with, but you feel drained afterwards and it negatively affects your mood and energy afterwards, you can limit the amount of time you spend with them.
- Taking walks or other regular exercise releases endorphins, which helps improve your mood, increases your problem solving and boosts creativity. Besides being a natural anti-anxiety or anti-depressant, regular exercise supports better sleep, allowing your brain to sufficiently rest and recover.
Start leveraging the power of your brain – your RAS, and subconscious and conscious minds. Remember, if your RAS sees your goals as crucial and important, it will act and bring to your attention all the related things around you that you see, hear, smell, taste, touch, feel or sense. And then you’ll be able to react to them accordingly.
That’s why writing or reading through your goals every day, visualizing your intended outcome as if it has already happened, regularly saying your affirmations, and creating healthy supportive habits is so important!
Take action today and do these things that will help focus your subconscious mind on what’s important to you and in your best interests in achieving your goals and dreams.
If you found this information helpful please let me know in the comments below.
– Photo by Natasha Connell on Unsplash