I first learned about the brain’s “Reticular Activating System” in a behavioral neuro-science course in undergrad studies. Fascinating, the function of this neuronal network is among other things, to filter cognitive input so that our brains don’t go into overload. In “lay” terms, the RAS “approves” entry for data deemed critical to our brain, and dismisses “irrelevant” data before we ever receive it.
One of the best examples of how this works, is observed in the purchase of a new vehicle. We do research on cost, functionality, features and benefits, on a particular car. Eventually we buy the car. Then suddenly every where we look, we notice this make and model vehicle! Did everyone buy this car when I did? They seem to be all over the place!
The answer is no. There are not “more” of this particular vehicle on the road. But our RAS has registered this information as important, since we have been so focused on it. So the cars have always been around us, but we didn’t notice them, until our RAS started letting that data in.
Another way to put it: “What we focus on expands” (as Oprah and others say often) which is an exciting concept and worthy of more discussion. For today, I wanted to share my experience after writing the blog about U2 lyrics yesterday.
Sure enough, as I listened to XM radio in my own vehicle yesterday, I heard a U2 song that was new to me. The lyrics caught me and resonated: “We are the people we’ve been waiting for.”
Was this the first time I’d heard the song? Probably not. More likely, my RAS was hyper-sensitive to “approving” this data to enter my brain, having deemed it worthy with so much focus on U2 lyrics earlier in the day. As it turns out, the track itself is relatively new and also the Official UEFA Euro 2020 song.
Either way I am happy to have a “new to me” U2 gem to add to my inspiration play list. The spirit of the song seems pretty close to Gandhi’s famous mantra: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
If it’s good enough for Gandhi, and U2, I am giving my RAS an inner “high five” for picking it up and letting it in. Let’s go be the people we’ve been waiting for, and focus on the things we wish to expand in our minds and in the world.