The Reticular Activating System
We can control what we focus on!
How? It's actually a physiological challenge.
Did you ever test-drive a car and notice while driving how many people seem to be driving the same car all of a sudden? Isn't that weird? Why didn't we notice before?
Imagine that you're walking through a busy and noisy airport passenger terminal.
Think of all the noise - hundreds of people talking, music, announcements, luggage carriers.
How much of this noise is brought to your attention? Not a lot.
True, you can hear a general background noise, but not many of us bother to listen to each individual sound. But then a new announcement comes over the public address system - saying your name or maybe your flight. Suddenly your attention is full on.
The automatic mechanism inside your brain that brings relevant information to your attention is our reticular activating system (RAS).
Your RAS is like a filter between your conscious mind and your subconscious mind. It takes instructions from your conscious mind and passes them on to your subconscious and vice versa. For example, the instruction might be, "listen out for anyone saying my name".
Our brain subconsciously receives about a million pieces of information per second from all of our 5 senses (visual, auditive, sensing etc). Many of these pieces of information are processed automatically. And we should be grateful for that .
Can you imagine having to think about breathing while being on the phone with a client?
It is obviously impossible to consciously process 1 MLN pieces of information per second.
We can - however - influence our RAS to raise awareness to certain things.
In fact, we can 'tell' our brain what to filter or what to focus on, just like you noticed the presence of the test-driven car all of a sudden - because you focused your brain on actively processing the image of the car.
The RAS is composed of several neuronal circuits connecting the brainstem to the cortex.
The neuronal circuits of the RAS are modulated by complex interactions between a few main neurotransmitters.
In doing so, the reticular activating system helps mediate transitions from relaxed wakefulness to periods of high attention. There is increased regional blood flow (presumably indicating an increased measure of neuronal activity) in the midbrain reticular formation (MRF) and thalamic intralaminar nuclei during tasks requiring increased alertness and attention.
So.. when we consciously focus on something, the RAS fires neurons to our brain raising its awareness to high attention.
There are some interesting points about your RAS that make it an essential tool for achieving goals.
Telling your brain to achieve your goals
First, you can deliberately program the reticular activating system by choosing the exact messages you send from your conscious mind. For example, you can set goals, or state affirmations, or visualize your goals.
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. Of course, if we keep thinking that we can't achieve a goal, our subconscious will help us NOT achieve it.
Second, your reticular activating system cannot distinguish between 'real events' and 'synthetic' reality. In other words it tends to believe whatever message you give it. Imagine that you're going to be giving a speech. You can practice giving that speech by visualizing it in your mind. This 'pretend' practice should improve your ability to give the speech.
What we need to do is to create a very specific picture of our goal in our conscious mind. The RAS will then pass this on to our subconscious - which will then help us achieve the goal. It does this by bringing to our attention all the relevant information which otherwise might have remained as 'background noise'.
In the sales process:
If you focus on buying signals, you might pick them up sooner in the conversation and better guide your conversation. Alternatively, you may be able to spot 'hidden' objections by actively monitoring behavior or non-verbal signs.
Just like visualization, your focused preparation of the conversation now helps to 'instruct' your RAS what to look for.
Ergo: visualize your goals and prepare your conversations well!