Why is it, that whenever we hear our name being shouted in a crowd (Hey, DAVID!), it jolts us awake and our attention gets channeled into the direction of the sound?
In personal development terminology, this is called:
RAS (Reticular Activating System)
It is the SELECTIVE FOCUS part of our brain.
The way RAS works is like a camera.
Not only does the RAS, FOCUS on certain things, but it also FILTERS OUT information and turns it into background. Turns it into “bokeh”
When we hear our name in a crowd, it catches our attention because of our previous reality of what we associated with that sound (our name).
Can I ask you something?
“When was the last time you cut your nails?”
When I ask this, instantly, your focus is turned to your nails and you are now accessing a memory of when you cut your nails.
Until you saw this sentence, you had no consciousness of your nails.
When you read these words, you shifted your consciousness to the visual of your nails and the past experience of when you cut your nails.
It went from something completely unconscious to the conscious mind.
But if I say
“What did you wear, on your first day of high school?”
This memory is represented somewhere else and retrieving this image will take a lot more time and energy (unless you started high school yesterday 😆).
So there are degrees of being able to draw the unconscious to the forefront of our realities.
And the way that RAS is useful to our life, is like this:
What you focus on, consistently with intent and emotion, creates your reality.
For example if you go to a party, or a concert, or a sporting event…
EVERYBODY will have a different experience of the event, based on what they chose to focus on, and the intensity of emotion they had.
If you focused on how bad the food, or that your team lost the game…you’ll have a bad time.
If the experience was very dull and nothing stood out, then you’ll likely not remember much about that event.
If you focus on the people smiling and being absorbed in positive vibes, and enjoying the PROCESS regardless of the result, you’ll think that the event was a great experience.
2 people can share the SAME event, but can have a completely DIFFERENT experience of the exact same event.
The map is NOT the Territory.
How one person describes THEIR map can be very different from someone else’s map.
When you take a look at that map, and you point to that area of the map, is it the actually territory?
No, it’s just a representation of the TERRITORY. It’s a friggin physical piece of paper, not the real thing.
It’s an idea from one of the foundations of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming)
“It means your understanding of the world is based on how YOU represent it – YOUR map – and not the world itself.”
Your thoughts can at best POINT to the truth, but it might not BE the truth.
The finger pointing to the moon is not the moon.
So maps are very useful for guidelines and signposts to actually get to the place, but it’s may not be the raw, objective truth.
Just a filtered version of it from that persons lens.
What we can try to do, is to construct our own map, so that it best fits to the way we want our lives to look like.
Let me give you an example of how RAS creates our lives.
It’s something I picked up from Tony Robbins some time ago.
Think of an experience when somebody did something to you, and you thought that they did it to take advantage of you…
Or better yet…
You THOUGHT somebody did something to you…
You HEARD they did it to take advantage of you
And you decided to FOCUS on that and you got really angry or your feelings were hurt..
But then you talked to that person later…
And you were COMPLETELY WRONG!
They never did it to harm you, or it was never their intent, and they apologized anyway…
…and it made you feel like a complete DOUCHE!
It made you feel embarrassed and you felt SO bad for thinking like that.
How did this happen?
We FELT this way because we FOCUSED on those feelings, WHETHER they were true OR not.
Whether they are TRUE or NOT, your feelings take up a physical space in your body and causes your body to create a biochemical reaction, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It BECOMES true.
Focus + Feelings = Experience
If I said:
What are you excited about today?
What are you proud of?
If you wanted to feel grateful, what could you feel grateful about?
What is great about this experience, that I haven’t noticed yet?
How do these questions make you FEEL, when you focus on these?
Your brain DOES NOT know the different between what’s real or imagined.
So any feelings you attach to an experience, becomes your reality.
I’ll give you another example of RAS:
Haven’t you ever had a time, where you were about to buy something, like a new car, and you had a specific brand in mind that you really wanted…
And then over the next month or so…
You start seeing this car EVERYWHERE.
Or say you were planning on visiting a certain restaurant for the weekend, and over the week you start seeing these restaurants EVERYWHERE in town.
And you think:
“Wow, I didn’t know Boston had so many Pho restaurants!”
“Wow, LA has a lot of Teslas!”
But the thing is they were ALREADY there, we just decided to filter them out of our reality, because it wasn’t important to us at that time.
I was first introduced to the concept of RAS about a decade and a half ago through a book and movie called “The Secret.”
It blew my mind when I first saw it.
It was based on the “Law of Attraction.”
That we can “attract” anything into our lives, if we decide to focus on it.
Of course, that’s only partially true, you still have to take massive action into creating your reality, but it’s the beginnings of turning your flywheel to get things going.
And I LOVE the movie, there are definitely many truths contained in the movie…
Except, it didn’t really explain the underlying mechanisms of WHY and HOW it works.
So throughout the past decade, I had to dive deeper into the knowledge of personal development to find out the answers.
And it led me into very interesting and somewhat strange topics, which I’ll explain in future posts (subconscious, environments, quantum mechanics, meditations, etc).
But one of those sub-topics is RAS.
What we FOCUS on, we tend to “attract” into our lives.
Hence, the “Law of Attraction.” 😊
Here are some other ways that RAS can work in our lives:
Like the example above, if you are about to buy a new car, and you have one in mind (White Tesla), because your RAS is now focused on that specific car, you are going to see it EVERYWHERE!
And it will last, until the novelty runs out then it becomes “background” again.
Age can be another. We’ll tend to make friends “around our age” because that’s where our RAS is used to going.
If we watch a movie, we’ll resonate with the character more if they are a similar age to us.
And Age can be seen as an insecurity or an advantage, based on our frame of reality.
Again, you can CHOOSE to see your age as something that’s a gift, or something that’s a disadvantage.
Speaking of insecurities, if you focus on how big your ears and all you do is focus on that as a NEGATIVE thing, you send negative vibes to others.
But if you focus on how big your ears on as a POSITIVE quirk to your physical being, then you send out positive vibes.
And ABOVE that, if instead of focusing on physical attributes, you focus on sending good vibes, through your personality and energy, then THAT’s what gets the focus, and not some superficial value such as your body.
The solution is to NOT focus on our aesthetics but to focus on inner values. That’s where real VALUE comes from and it’s also something that’s time proof.
If you focus on adding real VALUE to others, no one will even notice your “insecurities.” They don’t exist. It becomes bokeh.
Think about some of the greatest people in the world.
When a name like Steve Jobs comes up, do you think about his physical features, or are you focused more on how much value he added?
Focus on real value. Forget physical traits. No one notices anyways, because they are too focused on themselves 😆
If we go to a baseball game, the people who we go with AND the people who are AROUND us, will construct our experience.
Although we can ALWAYS decide what to focus on, no matter what environment we’re in, but it is a lot harder to focus on positive things, when we’re surround in a bad environment.
And if we go to a baseball game with a negative group of people, no matter how positive we try to be, their complaining and whining will infiltrate our mind.
The power of a collective reality can be stronger than an individual reality, IF YOU LET IT.
Not just a baseball game, but if we surround ourselves with negative people on a daily basis, we will get drawn into that vortex.
Again, we have the power to change our focus at any moment, BUT it’s a lot easier to do that, if we’re in a positive environment.
The environment and who you surround yourself with most, YOU BECOME.
So you have to surround yourself with people who are good, genuine people who focus on creating value.
Surround yourself with knowledge and information to help improve your life (like this post 😊), instead of being distracted by external faculties that are merely menial.
Our subconscious mirror
What we see in others is a reflection of what we see in ourselves.
This is another deeper topic, but I’ll briefly touch up on it.
What we CONSISTENTLY see in other people, is a clue that, THAT is what we see in ourselves!
When we see anger, or flaws in another human being, it is actually a REFLECTION of our inner dialogue.
And most importantly, it is a reflection of the environment that we surround ourselves in.
Because of the frequent environment that we pick up our RAS from, that’s what we’re USED to seeing…
So it’s only obvious that we start to see it in others!
If we see negativity in others, over and over again, it means that on a SUBCONSCIOUS level, WE are the negative ones. Or our mind is stuck in a negative paradigm.
Because that’s what is CONSTANTLY going on in our heads. Because that’s what we’re focusing on.
So if we see constant negativity showing up in our lives, we need to examine our thoughts and our environments.
Memory and RAS
Whenever you revisit a memory, whatever you were thinking at the time, what was going on, what you were focusing on…
Also, is part of your selective focus.
Some elements of that memory are STRONGER than others. There are some aspects that REALLY stand out.
You become what you attend to.
And the crazy thing is…
The FOREGROUND of that memory gets sharper and sharper and stands out more and more with repeated visits.
And the BACKGROUND gets more faded and duller each time you remember the selected elements and you ignore the rest…
Which changes that memory even more!
The map is not the territory.
The map gets more and more distorted and it becomes a long telephone game which distorts the message completely from the original message.
So memories can be personalized…
They change with every recall.
EVERY RECALL is a REFRAME.
A past event that SHAPED your identity, you can associate a NEW feeling to that memory, to create a new identity, if you do it consistently and with enough intensity.
But this also, is another topic for another day 😊
How to Tie this All Together
There are a lot more examples of the Reticular Activating System, but I think you should get the point with these.
Ultimately, the way RAS works is like this:
What has value IN YOUR LIFE, gets your focus
And you have the CHOICE for what gets the value in your life.
TWO things we can control when we’re focusing:
1 – WHAT were focusing on
ESPECIALLY, what were physically FEELING and what we’re saying to ourselves.
If you have physical pain, it’s going to affect your state and what you’re focusing on.
You can’t really focus on other things if you have diarrhea 💩 HA
And what we’re choosing to highlight within that frame of focus.
2 – HOW we’re focusing (feelings)
The colors, the volumes of our sound, the taste, the smell, the feeling.
Which of our FIVE senses were dominant at that time.
And how INTENSE those senses were.
How To Use RAS (Reticular Activating System)
We have the power to change our focus in an INSTANT.
Which leads to changing our FEELINGS.
And if we do it consistently enough…
It leads to changing our reality.
Here’s a Tony Robbins concept:
1 – Change Our Language Patterns
More specifically change the way we frame our QUESTIONS.
So Ask Good Questions!!
Because for most of us, we ask questions that don’t serve us:
Why does this always happen to me?
Why am I so fat?
How come I can never lose weight?
If you ask a bad question, the brain will come up with a bad answer:
Why does this always happen to me?
“You’re just a Jinx, David”
Why am I so fat?
“Because you eat like a pig.”
How come I can never lose weight?
“Because you ate a pig.”
Let’s ask some better, more empowering questions:
What can I learn from this?
How can I start losing weight and ENJOY the process?
What questions and what PHRASES do you say a lot (in your head)?
You have to become CONSCIOUS of the questions you ask yourself.
It’s about raising your AWARENESS.
Phrases you say with enough emotion intensity and with enough consistency, you start to believe it.
You can do this in your mind, and you can also do this out loud as well.
And if you COMBINE your physical body with your thoughts, it creates an even bigger effect.
Because ultimately, you want to download these new thoughts and feelings into your subconscious mind…
And ultimately your body IS your subconscious mind..
Because you’re body remembers.
We experience whatever we focus on
We experience whatever we sense (5 senses)
We experience whatever we FEEL
We experience whatever we SAY to ourselves
We feel whatever we do with our bodies.
You can take the SAME event, but you can CHOOSE what you experience:
“This person distrusted me and did bad things to me!
That’s why I can never be close to anyone! That’s why I can never trust again!”
“Because this happened, I have learned SO MUCH about myself
I have learned the art of patience.
Because this happened, I appreciate the people who are close to me even MORE.”
Choose GROWTH, not suffering.
2 – Focus on the SOLUTION not on the PROBLEM
Focus on what you have LEARNED not on how you have FAILED
See the OPENINGS, not the closings.
Play the game of life to WIN, not to NOT LOSE.
It may seem subtle, but there’s a BIG difference 😉
The first view, you’re always in defense, and never wandering outside of your comforts zone…
The other, you embark on the an adventure known as the Rebel’s Journey 😊 and you get to discover the TRUE you.
Ever wonder how somebody can have it ALL and still be unhappy?
Because no matter how successful they look on the outside, they can always FOCUS on something that isn’t perfect or doesn’t match their expectations.
Choose progression, not protection.
When we can no longer change a situation, we need to change ourselves, and our mindset.
How we react to the unchangeable conditions is up to ourselves.
Selecting our focus TAKES TIME.
It’s not going to happen overnight.
I’m STILL working on it and it’s been 12 years since I was introduced to the concept!
But it’s one of the eternal FREEDOMS that we have.
Viktor Frankl was a holocaust survivor.
He suffered through IMMENSE pain in the concentration camps.
They took everything away from him…
But there was one thing they COULD NOT TOUCH.
And that was his freedom to choose his altitude.
But they can’t take our LAST of our FREEDOM…
Which is our attitude and freedom to choose.
Choose high frequencies.
Choose the courage to give, instead of the cowardice to take.
And choose kindness. 🙏
Because it is our freedom to do so.
Watch this Crazy Video from Derren Brown (master practical psychologist):
It’s called “Cold Reading.”
Even though they all got the (*Spoiler Alert) SAME message, their RAS let them CHOOSE their personality.