In an extract from “The Lifestyle Lowdown: A SimplerLife”, Lucy McCarraher and Annabel Shaw talk about how your Reticuar Activating System can help you achieve your goals....
The difference between a dream and a goal is simply the written word and a careful plan. So to replace your disappointment with triumph, you need to convert your values and dreams into concrete, attainable goals.
Setting and achieving goals has a powerful influence on creating well-being in our daily lives. Humans have evolved as goal-seeking creatures and large parts of our brain are dedicated to helping us get what we want. Working with our own internal structures keeps us motivated, satisfied and growing continuously better at achieving our desires.
At the top of your brain stem, just above your spinal cord, is a two-inch stem of nerves that decides what information you can ignore and which part of your brain should deal with what is useful. It’s called the Reticular Activating System – or RAS - and it plays a vital part in your ability to achieve goals.
Imagine that you've walked into a huge party in a place you’ve never been to before, full of people you don’t know, to meet a friend. Think of all those faces surrounding you, a new environment to take in, not to mention the noise: people greeting each other, talking, eating, music, waiters offering food and drink…
How much detail of this is brought to your attention?
True, you can focus on individual people if you look, hear a general background noise and snatches of conversation as you pass by, but you’re not bombarded with each individual sight and sound to process and make sense of.
Then someone greets you from the other side of the room. They call your name, in a voice you know well. Suddenly, out of all the other environmental stimuli, your attention is attracted by this one sound and among the sea of faces you can easily pick out the one that you recognise.
Your RAS is the automatic mechanism inside your brain that separates out the irrelevant and brings relevant information to your attention. When you set yourself goals to achieve, even small ones like finding your friend in a crowded room, your RAS keeps you unconsciously on the alert for information and opportunities that help you move closer to achieving them. It enables you to receive feedback and adjust your course where necessary, but always keeping the end goal in sight.
By activating your brain’s automatic goal-seeking mechanism, you make life so much simpler for yourself. You won’t have to think about whether each and every action is moving you closer to your ambitions – your RAS will be on the case. Having clear goals, in each important area of your life, helps to cut down on distracting activities and time-wasting interruptions. It’s not that you’ll become a goal-oriented robot, intent only on rising through the ranks of your organization, or on an obsessive seek-and-destroy mission to find your perfect partner, because your personal goals will describe the breadth and depth of your life. - Lucy McCarraher, Annabel Shaw