"The ability to focus attention on important things is a defining
characteristic of intelligence."

-- Robert J. Shiller, Irrational Exuberance


Why do some things catch your attention and others don't?

Remember the last time you decided to buy a car? Once you decided what kind of car you wanted, you started seeing more of that kind of car on the streets. Were they there before and you just didn't pay attention to them? A pregnant woman will start noticing other pregnant women. Your new house is close to railroad tracks, yet after a few days, you don't hear the trains anymore.

What is it that provokes your attention? At the base of the brain where it connects to the spinal cord is a region known as the Reticular Activating System (RAS). The RAS acts as a newspaper editor. Editors made decisions regarding which stories get big headlines, page one treatment, and which items wind up buried with the ads on page sixteen.

The RAS receives thousands of messages each second. Everything you see, hear, smell, feel and touch is a message entering your brain. The Reticular Activating System filters through all these messages and decides which ones will get page one treatment -- that is, arouse the brain.

One of the things we've learned from working with entrepreneurs is that we tend to pay attention to the things which are important to us at the time. If our currently dominant thoughts are about creating a new brochure, we'll start seeing other brochures. We'll hear conversations about brochures. We'll pick up ideas relating to brochures and even notice colors that would be attractive for the new brochure.

In other words, the Reticular Activating System will pass through anything even remotely related to the important issue -- the brochure. From a practical point of view, this means that, if we want to solve a problem or achieve a goal, keep it at the top of your mind. Think about it, talk about, write about it and imagine it completed. This is one of the reasons why affirmations work so well and why it is important to review your goals frequently.

Some people will keep an idea at "top of mind" by creating a notebook of pictures cut from magazines that reflect their idea or their desired end result. This "image book" helps the visualization process, keeps the brain focused on the important issue and triggers the RAS.

By taking advantage of how your brain works, you can increase your creativity, reduce boredom, boost recognition of opportunities and accelerate achievement of your goals.

Where do you start? Write down the five most important outcomes you want to achieve this year. Put this paper in a convenient place where you can read it every day. This affirmation of your preferred future will keep your Reticular Activating System working for you, filtering in the sights, sounds, ideas and people to help you get there.

In other words, it will get your attention.

By Gary Lockwood who is increasing the Effectiveness and Enhancing the Lives of CEOs, business owners and professionals. Get his free CEO Success newsletter at www.CEOSuccess.com

Copyright 2001-2004 BizSuccess

Gary's review of our RAS is key. Another component of the RAS is that we humans can and do shift our focus to those activities, ideas, and situations that are "loudest" at grabbing our attention. Those that can hold our attention get acted on. (This topic is included in our March 18th simply Effective Group -- see below.)

This week notice what you're noticing. Put your key projects on the front burner. Are you seeing and "getting" the answers you need?

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March 5, 2004
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