When was the last time that you purchased a new car? It did not have to be a “new” new car exactly; just new to you. If you are like most, you probably did your research. You looked at all the factors that are important to you when purchasing a vehicle; such as what you need, what you want, your budget etc.
And after doing your extensive research, you landed on that yellow Jeep as your final decision. Yes, a yellow Jeep. And once you have come to this decision, you have just told your brain that a yellow Jeep is exactly what you want. And then something interesting happens. Yellow Jeeps start popping up all over the place.
Now is that because the universe has just dumped thousands of yellow Jeeps on the road?
No, the reason that you are now seeing yellow Jeeps all over town is because you have given your brain something specific to focus on.
You have told your brain what is essential and the part of the brain that you are navigating is the Reticular Activating System (RAS). RAS is the part of the brain that determines what you are going to focus on based on what you tell it to focus on.
Your RAS does not discriminate, meaning your RAS does not know if your thoughts are good ones or bad ones. It does not know if your thoughts support you toward your desired goals or detract you. And it does not know if your thoughts are good for you or not.
Whatever you tell your RAS it will find evidence to support it.
How does this apply to you as a leader? As a leader, if you tell yourself that a work situation is untenable, that there is no possible way that you can move forward because your team will never “get it”, your RAS will find all the supporting evidence to prove you are right. The situation will be untenable, will lack a solution and your staff won’t ever get it. So, what you think will determine what comes your way.
As a leader, practice telling your brain where you want to go. Decide on what you are going to tell your RAS. For example, tell yourself and your team, we got this! We are going to find a way! We are going to find the value in this tough situation.
This will tell your RAS that what want to focus on are the positive aspects of the situation. Those positive aspects will then show up and be visible – just like the yellow Jeeps that keep showing up. You’ll see it when you believe it.
The message here is not to act or pretend as if everything and everyone is “dandy”. As a leader, it is not about painting an unrealistic picture. Leaders must identify and address the good, the bad and the ugly. Yet, it is important to understand that the thoughts and impressions you “anchor in” will inform your RAS.
Tell your RAS what you want it to focus on. What you think about is going to dictate what you notice and influence how you act. So, choose you’re them wisely.