How Visions Become Reality—The Reticular Activating System
This excerpt from The Shift from Me to Team, which will be published this year, touches on the role of our reticular activating system in making our vision a reality.
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Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity Roman philosopher Seneca
What happens in life is not as random as we may believe. What we are thinking about makes all the difference. Strategically and purposefully managing our thinking, like having a vision of a desired future—creating images, gives us a better chance of that future becoming reality.
As we learn to envision a positive future, we open ourselves to gathering information needed to get there. We become less concerned about where the information comes from—or who is delivering it. We become less concerned with the way things have always been done. We are more open to creative and novel approaches that will move us toward our vision more quickly. We seek input from unlikely sources, and in so doing, we become more attuned listeners, more likely to see the strengths of others and the value of collaboration to reach our destination.
It is the brain’s reticular activating system (RAS) working behind the scenes, subconsciously, to help guide us on our journey. By visualizing a desired destination, we prepare our RAS to act like a radar to collect data to aid us on our path to that destination. Our mind is open to information that can help us. It sorts through the information chaos to identify data that can help us move toward our vision.
While we consciously create the vision, the RAS works subconsciously to identify pathways towards it. When these pathways lead to successes, we may call it luck, but it is not luck at all. It began with a vision we created and actions we took based on the information filtered by our RAS.
Here is a surprising personal experience that made me a believer in the power of a positive vision. I created my Top-Ten Life To-Do’s. It was a list of goals that are most meaningful to me in my lifetime. Near the top of the list was a home renovation. I wrote:
Home Renovation – To have a home that is so warm and welcoming that our children and grandchildren love being here and cannot wait to come back to spend more time with us.
The setting of our home is spectacular; it sits on a bluff overlooking the Huron River in Ann Arbor. However, after moving in, I was in the beginning stages at FS/A, and we were not in a financial situation to do the much-needed renovations. We felt certain a remodel would only be possible far in the future.
After writing this goal down, we decided to see what kind of budget we would need to fund the renovation. At that time, I overheard someone say they just got a crazy-low interest rate refinancing their home. I ran into my banker by chance and asked him about refinancing. He recommended it, and we increased our mortgage for part of the renovation, while not increasing our payments. Seemingly out of nowhere, we had a big part of our funding. We had an architect draw some concepts, and we regularly tore pictures from magazines that depicted the ambiance we were seeking. The image of our finished project was becoming more and more clear. Meanwhile, business at FS/A took off at the same time, and somehow someway we had the finances to pay for the renovation. The picture was clear, and the RAS did its job such that eighteen months after making the renovation #1 on my Top-Ten Life To-Do’s, we unbelievably had the home of our dreams.