MSS# 042 How to program your mind's Sat Nav

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MSS #042: Learn how to get more of what you want!

28 Oct 23

MSS #042: How to program your mind’s Sat Nav.

28 Oct, 2023

Read time: 5.2 minutes

In a hurry? Cut straight to the heading Your beliefs matter - reduced read time 3.7 minutes

This week discover one of the most powerful and important parts of the brain.

Discover how our mind fixes on beliefs, goals and targets and why you either keep hitting your targets or unknowingly sabotague your own success.

Once you know this, you cannot unknow it.

The applications to how we operate are numerous.

Ready for a bit of discovery?

How we focus in a sea of noise and feelings:

The last 10 years I have studied and learnt lots about how our minds work, boiling this down to some simple actionable steps and explanations, for why things do or do not happen.

One of the most powerful and important parts of our brains is an area at the base of the brain called the Reticular Activating System (RAS).

It consists of a tightly bunched set of neurons with an incredibly important function – to filter and focus. Ok not exactly gripping, let me explain more.

The unconscious part of our brain can process around 11 million bits of information per second and is like a sponge soaking up all we experience.

The conscious, reasoning part of the brain can only handle 40-50 bits of information per second.

But our senses are bombarded with so much information each second, if we had no filter our conscious mind would drown in a sea of information, unable to focus and think rationally.

Our unconscious mind stores our learnt “rules”, that help us manage our lives. When encountering a situation, the unconscious mind can then consider,

“hang on. seen this scenario before, this is how we need to react”

and at considerable speed operates an autopilot in the background making decisions for you.

The best way to explain what the RAS does is an example.

You are in a crowded room, lots of people talking and drinking. Voices, noises all around you.

You are talking to someone and listening to what they are saying, but aware of the din around you.

Suddenly out of nowhere you hear someone say your name and you pinpoint where in the room you heard this.

How? Because the RAS filters what you hear, see, feel and touch (smell goes somewhere else – that’s why smells trigger powerful memories).

The RAS is looking out for any “relevant” information you “tell” it is important.

It is very much like programming in a destination to a Sat Nav, so the Sat Nav focuses on getting you to the destination and navigating all the issues along the journey to get there.


Your beliefs matter

To speed up decision making, we have a whole mechanism of systems to shortcut decision-making.

Part of this system include “labelling” things as facts in our minds, that are often not true facts simply our learnt perceptions.

True facts are those that are indisputably true and have 100% factual content, that you can verify with independent sources. Most of what we consider as facts, is simply a deep seated opinion we have developed based on some filtered “evidence” from the past.

Our brain has developed a way of filtering all this information to focus on what is important to us and bringing this to our attention and discarding the rest (the non-relevant info is stored in the unconscious for future use).

Another simple illustration will explain the RAS in a way we see it in action every day.

Your thinking of buying a different car, you narrow your choice to particular make and model. Suddenly you start noticing the car in car parks, adverts, friends talking about it.

That’s strange you did not notice information about this specific car before.

Nothing has changed other than by placing your attention on this make and model of car, you have now inadvertently “programmed” your RAS to filter noticing that make and model and ignoring others.

Your RAS diverts the information about that specific make and model to the rational, decision making, conscious part of your mind. The unwanted, filtered out information, goes to your unconscious mind for mass storage of information, in case it might be needed another time.

Your RAS can also access your vast store of information, seeking out old memories of this make and model, suddenly you might remember an old friend who had that make and model of car.

Now apply this to your attitude and approach to how much choice and control you have in life. If you think you have little or no choice and no control in life, your RAS accepts this as a filter instruction and will only notice examples confirming your theory or belief - that you have little or no choice. It provides you with evidence or proof you are right. This reinforces your belief making it even stronger, reinforcing your attitude to having little or no choice.

Imagine it like a tightening spiral that focuses on what you want, giving you more proof your theory is correct. You become more convinced your suspicions are true, as you have more proof. The belief spiral tightens until no other conclusion is possible.

If you believe you have little or no control of your life, this manifests as a tightening spiral, resulting in getting more and more wound up, stressed and feeling life is closing in if it’s a negative theory you hold true.

It goes a bit like this,

  • Perception / mindset = I have little or no choice

  • RAS “programmed” with that mindset

  • Proof “found” by your RAS focusing as “instructed”

  • Mindset of “told you so” is strengthened

  • Result = “Little or no choice” is manifested

  • Perception = little or no control over life’s events. Resulting in feeling trapped, fearful, unhappy, anxious

If you instead have a mindset that you do have choices, your RAS will find more examples of choice, reinforcing your belief. This results in you feeling more in control and feeling freer and happier. This then becomes a positive virtuous circle.

It looks a bit like this.

Put simply, where you place your attention gives your RAS filter an instruction of what to look for. You will then be proved right and find opportunities to achieve what you place your attention on.

The other way to consider this is you get more of what you focus on. Your RAS will help you find a way of getting what you focus on by trawling new and past information to help you achieve what you want.

Not only does the RAS filter information from 4 of your sense and sift your memories - it presents options to help you get to where you programmed your Sat Nav. If you face choices, it will give you a nudge towards the choice that will help you achieve your Sat Nav destination.

WARNING: What you focus on matters

Focus your thoughts on what you WANT, which might be,

  • A specific goal

  • Happy thoughts

  • Peace of mind

  • How to solve a problem

Be careful to focus on what you WANT, not on what you are avoiding or fearful of happening.

Let’s imagine you have an important presentation coming up. If you conjure thoughts and images of you doing a great job giving the presentation, your RAS will look out for anything that supports this desired outcome to assist you.

If however you start thinking about how nervous you will be and if you will fluff your words. The RAS will simply accept this as an “instruction” and support you to achieve this.

FOCUS ON what you WANT

Not what you wish to AVOID.

Focusing on a goal

You have to be clear about is what you want to happen in your life. If you are unclear what your aim is, you are unlikely to get there – as simple as that. You need to clearly set your compass, a bit like setting the destination in a Sat Nav.

Best approach is to keep it simple.

  • Choose one thing you want to achieve

  • Be clear what the outcome is – what does it look, sound and feel like?

  • Create some images in your mind of what this might look like, once achieved

  • Consider how it would feel when you arrive at that destination

Place your attention regularly on this and your RAS will help you find opportunities and resources to support you. Imagine it as if it is happening now and you are enjoying what it is you wish to achieve.

So what?

That was a quick look under the bonnet of our minds, explaining why we seem to get drawn to what we think about.

Quick recap. What we learnt,

  • Your RAS filters 4 of your senses for what is relevant to you

  • Your RAS will find evidence to prove your beliefs correct

  • Where you place your attention “programmes” your RAS

  • Focus your attention on what you WANT not what you are fearful of or want to avoid

  • Use images and emotions related to what you WANT, this is the “language” the RAS uses to lock in the Sat Nav destination

  • Examples of what to focus your thoughts and attention on are,

    • A specific goal

    •  Happiness

    • Peace of mind

    • How to solve a problem

See you next week. If you haven't already, follow me on LinkedIn and hit the bell for daily posts on tips, insights and techniques.

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Nuclear Powered Resilience – learn one golden habit that gives incredible inner strength, comfort and support, that keeps growing by instilling Unconditional Love in your mind.

7 guiding principles to better thinking – what trips up our thinking and how to create different habitual responses.

What they should have taught you at school – awareness of how we think and how to get better results.

Vitamin C for the mind – how to feel and have more control in life, with simple techniques built into a habit.

Happy habits – simple habits to make you feel happier everyday.

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading, really hope this helped. Contact me if you think I can help you further at [email protected].

Happy thinking.