You asked how you could control your life and future? I’ll tell you. Think about it. Yes, that’s all. Think about it. Simple, powerful, true! Here’s why …
Recently, we explored the role of the Reticular Activating System (RAS) in your life. The RAS is the filter that sifts through the millions of incoming signals that arrive at your brain every second, enabling you to process your environment without your head exploding. To do this, it needs an algorithm, or code, to govern the sorting process. Where does this code come from? You. Your RAS listens carefully to the thoughts bouncing around in your cognitive brain. It determines that the thoughts you have most frequently are the important ones, and then gets on with the essential job of filtering out messages on other topics, or that have different conclusions.
Now, you have a lot of thoughts bouncing around in your brain on any one day. Truthfully, honest scientists will tell you we don’t know the actual number, partly because it’s hard to define exactly where one thought starts and ends, and partly because its hard to actually count these thoughts even if we could agree on what was a discrete thought. The neuroscientists at the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging (LONI) at the University of Southern California (USC) estimate that we have between 60,000 and 70,000 thoughts in a day. That’s more than 4000 per hour, more than 60 per minute, and more than 1 per second (assuming we all get the advised 8 hours of sleep per day). Whew, that’s a lot of internal messages to process. Nevertheless, your RAS listens to them all, and draws its conclusions as to what is important to you.
Interestingly, this selective filtration process aligns with the observation that most of our thoughts are repetitive; as much as 90% by most estimates.
There’s another hard-to measure number thrown around by amateur neuroscientists: that over 80% of our thoughts are negative. This statistic is hard to prove, but easy to explain from a defensive evolutionary perspective – remember the voice of fear and negativity that comes from your primitive reptilian brain? Deep inside your brain, this voice cautions you about all the bad things that might happen to you, in order to keep you safe. It is a profoundly negative source of information. Ouch. You’ve probably already guessed what that means … that your loyal and obedient RAS, on hearing all these negative thoughts echoed in your Cognitive Brain, assumes that you mainly want to hear bad news! L
So, if your prevailing thoughts are “I’m stupid, and ugly, and nobody loves me”, your RAS takes this as it’s guide as to what is important to you, and faithfully allows through all the data that confirms these perceptions. Of the millions of pieces of feedback in your environment, the ones that will be allowed entry to your consciousness reinforce that you are indeed stupid, ugly and unloved.
Sadly, for too many of us, this is where the story ends, and life becomes one long drawn-out misery.
Luckily, Mother Nature had other ideas, but it’s up to us to decide. This is where the concept of free will, espoused by most major religions, comes in. We have the right to decide what messages reverberate in the corridors of our consciousness. Mother Nature placed the Cognitive Brain (and only the Cognitive Brain) under our full voluntary control. This explains at a functional level a concept that we’re exploring with a great deal of excitement today, known as brain plasticity. As the name suggests, we now understand that the brain is adaptable. It can change substantially, with important life consequences.
Here’s one of them.
Because your Cognitive Brain is under your complete voluntary control, you decide what messages bounce around inside of it. You decide if they will be positive, or negative. And guess what? If you decide that you will fill your brain with positive thoughts, your loyal RAS will filter through positive data from the outside, reinforcing the positive melody in your mind with far-reaching benefit. Life will look better, sound better, feel better, and with this uplifting feedback you are in a more powerful position to live your life and deliver on your dreams.
Speaking about dreams, do you remember where these came from? Yes, they were the very positive thoughts that you consciously planted in your brain in the first place. Your future truly is in your own hands. You will both build and deliver the destiny of your own desire. Choose carefully!
I’ll leave you with this powerful poem. The author is unknown, and you’ll find it attributed to many great leaders. In the absence of definite ownership, and in the interests of political correctness, I choose to allocate it to Mother Nature who designed this wondrous system in the first place.
Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become your character.
And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
(PS, we didn’t even talk about habit here. It is partly a consequence of the RAS, and partly the result of other beautiful brain and hormone biology that you can read about in this earlier blog.)