Success Versus Failure: Which Do You Prefer?

[3-Min Video + 852 Words]Say hello to a section of your brain that implements your deepest desire. But beware! It knows if you genuinely prefer success or failure.

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Success Versus Failure: Which Do You Prefer?

Say hello to a section of your brain that implements your deepest desire. But beware! It knows if you genuinely prefer success or failure.

Say hello to your Reticular Activating System.

There’s part of your brain that plays a leading role in delivering your deepest desires. If you think success is important to you, it will seek success. If failure is your priority, then it will do that too.

If you already know your Reticular Activating System on a personal basis, feel free to skip this next section. Otherwise, read on! You’re about to meet the area of your mind that can determine your destiny.

The Reticular Activating System (RAS) is a web of neurons embedded in the brainstem. It acts as a relay system between the brainstem and the rest of your brain. It’s primary function is to activate your consciousness. It influences arousal, sleep-wake cycles, motor movements, pain, and habituation among many other aspects of your life.  Check out the diagram below to locate it.

DIAGRAM: Location of RAS Source: Brainstem Wiki

If your body was a tour bus…

Your brainstem would be the bus driver.

It controls your central nervous system. Breathing, sleeping, and heartbeating are all performed by the brainstem. It manages your balance, coordination and reflexes, too. Your brainstem drives your body and brain.

If your brainstem is the bus driver, the RAS stands at its shoulder, setting the direction.

All of the other sections of your brain are tourists on the bus. They hired the bus and are now trying to agree a destination. They’re squabbling because they all have different perspectives on where they should be going.

The RAS filters all that noise with some help from the midbrain. Together they decide the most important destination and then the RAS instructs the brainstem to drive there. RAS then confirms the direction with the midbrain who tells the tourists exactly where the bus is going, over the loudspeaker. The tourists accept the decision and comply.

PHOTO: Scene from the movie Speed, photo source 20th Century Fox

You tell your RAS what’s important.

Until recently, I had never noticed how many white utility vehicles our town has. They were just another piece of the 20 million data points my brain was processing every second.

Then my partner got one for work, and one day, I had to find it in a parking lot. It was then that I noticed the high count. I had instructed my RAS that finding a white vehicle was important, so it showed me all the ones available. It shifted “white vehicles” from the periphery into my field of focus.

I remember when a friend’s hearing dialled into the cries of her new born baby. We could be in the kitchen talking, cooking, playing music, and generally being rowdy. Then, she would suddenly leave. All the rest of us were oblivious to the gentle sound that had started in the room at the other end of the hallway. Her desire to be a great mother programmed her RAS to prioritise the baby. She heard and responded to a sound to which we were all oblivious.

You also feed instructions to your RAS via your moods and emotions. I share an example of it in You’re Always In A Mood. A cold snap on the farm had caused the lamb death rate to increase, and I sunk into a melancholic mood. In my subconscious, I was telling myself that I was a bad farmer. My RAS interpreted that as an instruction. It began showing me all the evidence that supported that outcome.

Your RAS is the source of your self-determination. 

Tell your RAS that “success” (whichever way you define that) is important to you. It will filter your world to achieve that outcome. You will see opportunities and evidence of that success. Just give it the instruction.

Watch Out! Booby trap about!

There’s a booby trap built into the RAS that catches the unaware. 

Your RAS prioritises instructions from your subconscious. If you consciously think one thing but deep down believe another, your RAS will take direction from the soul-deep belief.

For instance, I can tell myself that I want success, but if deep down I believe I’m not worthy or capable, I’ve got a problem. The RAS will filter my world to show me “I’m not worthy.” It will focus my attention on gaps, personal shortfalls and failings and ignore the positives.

You’re RAS listens to what’s going on inside. You can’t manipulate it with fake news. It knows if you genuinely prefer failure or success.

THINK one thing, FEEL another?

During the next week, become more aware of how you’re instructing your RAS—spot moments when you think one thing but feel another. 

Here are some everyday examples to get you started.

  • You’re trying something new. You tell yourself you can do it, but you feel anxious.
  • You’re talking to someone you want to trust and believe, but your gut instinct says otherwise.
  • You set a goal that, on paper, looks achievable, but you feel demotivated or overwhelmed.

Those feelings are what you will achieve. You might be telling your RAS you prioritise failure over success. 

It can be challenging to accept at first, but gaining awareness gives you an upper hand. You can work on recalibrating those deeply held beliefs, and that will set you up to achieve in ways that you couldn’t do before.

(FYI – I’ve practised this method for years. Still, I regularly spot think-feel disparities. Most people experience it at some stage.)

Discover more about your bold mind every Monday

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