Where Is Your Focus?

What do you spend your time focusing on? Do you even know what you are focusing on most of the time?

As you are reading this post, I want you to notice things around you. What are the sights and sounds you hear and see, while still paying attention to reading this post? What did you notice?

Now, really concentrate on the sights and sounds around you – listen to your heart beating, feel the air going into your lungs, feel the pulsing of your blood through your veins. Listen for those sounds you normally don’t take any notice of – the clock ticking, your neighbor pruning their garden bushes, the hum of a fan or the sound of your computer working.

Were there any new sights and sounds that you heard this time that you hadn’t heard before? These things were always there, but you hadn’t noticed them.

Now, imagine that you’re walking through a busy airport terminal. Think of all the noise – hundreds of people talking, music, announcements, luggage carriers. How much of this noise is brought to your attention? You can definitely hear a general background noise, but you don’t notice every individual sound. Then, suddenly you hear an announcement over the public address system – saying your your flight number is delayed or canceled. Suddenly your attention is full on. You have just tuned in to something specific and useful to you.

Why is this?

At the base of the brain stem, about the size of a little finger, is a group of cells whose job it is to sort and evaluate incoming data. This control center is known as the Reticular Activating System (R.A.S).

The R.A.S sends the urgent information to the active part of your brain, and sends the non-urgent to the subconscious. The R.A.S awakens the brain to consciousness, and keeps it alert. This is why parents can hear their baby cry in the night, but why they don’t notice the non-essential night time noises—the dripping tap, the cats outside the window, or the neighborhood traffic.

According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, “we filter around 2 million bits of information per second down to 7 plus or minus 2 chunks of information.” In other words, the data available to your central nervous system goes through a process of deletion, distortion and generalization in order for you to make sense of all the information.

The system in charge of sorting the information is called the R.A,S. The R.A.S is a self-filtering system that chooses what you accept and reject based upon your beliefs, values and prejudices.

We are literally bombarded with sensory images, sounds and goings on all day long. Just imagine what your life would be like if you were aware of every single one of them—it would be overwhelming. Our R.A.S. determines what you focus on or pay attention to and also deletes out things you don’t need to focus on at that time.

How can we use the R.A.S. to our benefit?

Remember, this small group of cells continuously determines what you focus on. It is like a filter and takes instructions from your conscious mind and passes them on to your subconscious. It allows in what you believe is important.

If you think the world is tough and life is a struggle, you will find references to support this.

However, if you believe that every day is a special day, and the world is filled with amazing experiences and people, you will find countless references to support this also.

In life, you get what you focus on. Your experience of life is dependent upon what you are deleting at any one time, and you won’t experience the things you delete. Imagine all the opportunities you may have missed in your life because you weren’t focused in that particular area.

As the R.A.S determines what is important for you to focus on, you need to “program” this group of cells to focus on things which will move you ahead, not hold you back or limit your view of the world.

By consistently putting images of what you want in life, you will begin to train your R.A.S. what to focus on. Get a clear image of what you want, and implant that image into your mind. Make it specific to your needs, and visualize in your imagination the outcome you want.

The subconscious can’t tell the difference between the real and the imagined, so be very specific of the outcome you want to achieve. It does this by bringing to our attention all the relevant information which otherwise might have remained as ‘background noise’.

State your desired outcome in the positive. For example “I am fit and healthy and enjoy exercising on a daily basis” rather than “I don’t want to be sick anymore”. By writing your goals down, it is like setting up the filter so the R.A.S can focus on those areas which will will help you achieve your goals.

You can deliberately program the reticular activating system by choosing the exact messages you send from your conscious mind. Napoleon Hill said “that we can achieve any realistic goal if we keep on thinking of that goal, and stop thinking any negative thoughts about it”, and of course, take action towards that goal. If we keep thinking that we can’t achieve a goal, our subconscious will help us – “not achieve it”.

What are you going to choose to focus on?

About Brenda

Read more about Brenda on the About Brenda Freeman page.
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17 Responses to Where Is Your Focus?

  1. Trish says:

    HI, Yes it is so easy to get caught up in what we don’t want. We are so programmed to do that. In my experience, especially in the past 12 months, you can and do achieve what you focus on. That is a really exciting concept & once we realise what we think about is what we bring about – the transformation is amazing. If we want something -really want it, all we have to do is “hold onto that thought’ and feel it. Thank you for your support in helping me keep my focus on what I want in my life. Love Trish

  2. Anna says:

    Hello I am so delighted I found your blog, I really found you by mistake, while I was looking for something else, Anyway I am here now and would just like to say thanks for a tremendous post and all round entertaining blog (I also love the theme/design), I have bookmarked it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read more. Please do keep up the great work.

  3. Brenda says:

    Thanks for your thoughts Trish. Once I grasped this idea that we truly get what we focus on and used it in my own life, I saw some amazing results. I know that many of the people I have met have also had this transformation. This is an extremely important concept to grasp, especially when all we hear on the news and in the newspapers, is the doom and gloom of the current world economy.

  4. Tricia Karp says:

    Brenda, I’ve read a lot about visualisation, but never heard of the RAS. To understand how it actually works adds a new layer of strength to this. I felt quite excited reading your post!

    It’s so easy to focus on the negative… and so powerful to focus on something positive, and name it with clarity.

    I’ve been thinking about creating a new list – your timing is perfect 🙂

    Thank you,

    • Thank you Tricia. I also love learning new information, and felt like you when I first heard this concept.

      Simple examples of the everyday things we focus on can bring our attention to what the RAS does and how it can influence our lives well into the future.

      Have fun creating your new list 🙂

  5. Samuel says:

    Awesome post Momma LOL. Yeah, focusing on what can be of help to ones life is the best! Rather than focusing on what will not help. Am trying all my best to focus on what matters because things are too much on my mind. I love that Napoleon Hill quote. Thanks a lot for sharing. Have Fun.

    • Thanks Samuel – so much of today’s teachings come directly from Napoleon Hill’s work.

      Prioritizing what is important to you is the best way towards achievement – prioritize, decide, focus and act. 🙂

      Once you do this, you mind can clear and you can move on with what is important to you and your goals

  6. Ingrid Lee says:

    Much of my own work on Csikszentmihalyi I’ve also found to inspiring for focus- particularly focus and flow. In terms of creative focus, I really like the notion of iterative creative thinking (Yashin-Shaw), it establishes that creativity flows and switches between different categories for thinking making creating or problem solving more flexible, and focus more open to a gradual process where the creator problem solves, continually adjusting the emerging product towards its final form. For me, focus is open to engagement of all that is around because of these understandings too.

    Thanks Brenda for this insight too, I always love different ways of thinking about things!

  7. Marcie says:

    Focus has been one thing I am not good at. I tend to flutter from one thing to another. I actually read all this post – a winner in my books

  8. Pax says:

    I came to your site from a friend’s recommendation and read a few of your other blog posts as well. They are cool, and I will finish reading the others soon.

  9. Di says:

    I focus on everything I shouldn’t – any suggestions?

  10. Barbara says:

    My eye is on the prize….steely focused

  11. Ulga says:

    I recently realised my focus was on everything I didn’t want and that’s what I kept getting.

    Making the change to what I want has made a huge difference to my life

  12. Louise says:

    Thank you for any other fantastic article.

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