How Your Brain’s Reticular Activating System (RAS) Determines Your Success
The reticular activating system is a bundle of neurons found in your brain, usually the size of your little finger. It acts as a filter and decides which information is important, and which isn’t, thus conserving a lot of energy. Some people think that the key to success lies in the reticular activating system. In short, utilizing its full potential can mean the difference between living the life you want and being stuck in a terrible routine.
1. How does the RAS work?
It helps to think of the reticular activating system (RAS) as a gatekeeper of your brain. Its job is to sort through the massive amounts of information delivered to you by your sensory organs. Some of these stimulations always get through, for example hearing your name called. However, there is information that your brain can do without and the RAS makes the decision to dismiss it. Basically, the RAS lets in information that you are already focused on. When you learn a new word, you keep hearing it everywhere. If you like a certain type of phone, you notice more and more people using it. This is due to the fact that when you first encountered these things, they left an impression, so now the RAS keeps alerting your brain every time you notice them.
2. The Power of Visualization
While some may think that daydreaming is wasted time that could have been used otherwise, it can actually help you train your RAS. The more you ‘daydream’ about your goals and the desired outcomes, the bigger your chances of reaching them. All of this is graphically explained in this video. Imagining your future means that you are gradually programming your RAS to focus on your goals and ways to achieve them. Clearly identifying your goals will signalize that this is something important and meaningful, so the RAS will begin to focus on it. Over time, it will learn to pick up on clues and hints in your environment that will help you accomplish your objective. Without the help of your RAS, this important sensory information may be discarded and never delivered to your brain. The RAS is not a superpower; it’s just a part of your body that will do what you incline it to do. If you think about a point in your life that you want to reach (employment, travel, marriage), your RAS will detect that this is essential to your life and do a better job at focusing on these things.
3. Visualization Techniques
Success rarely comes in a tangible form; it’s more of a concept. This is why some aspects of your future may be hard to imagine or play out in your mind, so basic visualization doesn’t cut it. The most effective method for practical visualization seems to be writing your goals down on a piece of paper. In this way, you are simplifying and conceptualizing your objectives. If you want to be more creative, here are some other daily techniques you can use:
- send yourself an email with your goals or tasks
- display your target on your phone or computer wallpaper
- keep a journal outlining your plans
- place sticky notes where you can see them
- create a vision board with magazine cutouts and inspirational quotes
4. Start Working
Contrary to popular belief, the RAS will not attract success on its own. It’s only when you start moving in the right direction will the RAS show you the big opportunities. For example, if your goal is starting your own business, then make it a habit to spend one hour every day working on your business idea. And if you don’t have one, educate yourself about businesses. After sometime, you’ll learn how to attract small-level clients. And as you gain experience and remain focused on the big vision, the RAS will soon show you the “big opportunity” one day. You will suddenly find a high-paying client after toiling hard for months on. This client may help you establish your brand in the market and from there on, you’re set for success. So what’s the key here? The key is to realize that the opportunities RAS shows you are relative to your efforts. It won’t show you the big opportunity right away. You have to follow its trail. Follow the small ideas (self-education, learning through small-level clients) that need you to work on them. Then once you start working, the big opportunity (premium clients) will be revealed.
The reticular activating system is a powerful tool that nature has given us. While its function seems quite simple, there are many ways you can take advantage of it. If the RAS can help you focus on your desired smartphone or car then why not train it to focus on your education, job, family or house? It’s potential has no limits and it would be a shame to waste it.