Science and the Real Law of Attraction
We have all heard the old adage:
“What you focus on grows”
And I am sure you are a bit skeptical, am I right? What if I told you it was true?
Scientists have a lot to say about the expression: “what you focus on grows”
Three things to consider about your brain:
1. Confirmation bias
3. The Reticular Activating System
Confirmation bias is the tendency to only gather evidence to suit or confirm your previously held beliefs. Once we have a particular point of view, we often subconsciously seek ideas that confirm what we already believe while ignoring or rejecting information to the contrary. This might be hard to hear but the reality is, we are not able to perceive circumstances very objectively.
Confirmation bias has been tested for decades in the field of psychology and researchers have found overwhelming support for its existence. However, long before the field of psychology existed the phenomenon had been observed. Starting with the Greeks and Thucydides (c 460-395 BC) to Sir Francis Bacon (1561–1626) who wrote:
The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion … draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects or despises, or else by some distinction sets aside or rejects[.]
We each have a different view of reality based on our own individual experiences and our brains are shaped by those experiences.
Here is how it works: With every thought or emotion that gets repeated in the brain, a neuropathway is formed and reinforced. Our brain is a muscle and when we have the same thought over and over ,the thought, or neuropathway, becomes stronger. Conversely, the things we do not think of regularly become weaker. Over time these thoughts become automatic and our thoughts become our actions.
The good news here is that your brain is malleable (hence plasticity as part of the term) and that means it can be changed. New pathways can be formed.
The Science: How the Brain Creates your Reality
Your brain is hard wired for survival. It has spent the last couple million years perfecting its ability to keep you alive (and by you I mean the proverbial you). The brain has perfected this by learning how to conserve as much energy as possible and by looking for ways to continuously optimize its functioning to conserve energy.
The truth is: it’s all in your brain!
One of the best ways your brain has to conserve energy is by creating habit-loops, or neuro-shortcuts that it has previously created and can draw on over and over again, think breathing, or moving your limbs. Your brain does this with you not even being conscious of it, thus saving energy and maximizing efficiency and your survival. This is great news you think… But, it also creates habit-loops that you perform subconsciously that not only aren’t helping you, but can even hinder you, without you even knowing.
Back to Confirmation Bias and Neuroplasticity. Both come down to the brain conserving energy by efficiently filtering information using the Reticular Activating System (RAS).
The Brain’s Filter
The Reticular Activating System (RAS) is a finger sized bundle of neurons located just above the brain stem that runs from the hind-brain to the fore-brain. Cells of the RAS are alerted when signals are transmitted from the skin, nose, ears, eyes, etc. This information is then relayed to the cerebral cortex (outer layer of brain) specifically the pre-frontal cortex (responsible for high-level decision making) which is then alerted that some sort of information is coming in and the cortex needs to sort it out.
The RAS serves as a filter, filtering incoming messages and only allowing important messages through to the higher brain centers. The type of sensory information allowed through the ‘gates’ determines where our attention will be directed. This is essential to prevent overload or over stimulation of our brain with all of the sensory input that we experience each second.
Filtering is also important to allow the brain to be efficient (remember the brain is trying to keep us alive by saving energy at all costs so creating short cuts and filters helps the brain conserve energy. For more on the brain check out this post
What does this mean to you?-What you Focus on Grows
1. RAS reinforces your beliefs
2. The RAS determines what you will focus on.
AND for the most part YOU have already determined what gets through the gate (mostly without realizing it)
The RAS tells your brain what to focus on and what is important. If you shift your focus you shift your brains filters. And it appears that the brain can only focus on one message at a time.
Have you ever been shopping for a new car and suddenly you see the car you have been considering everywhere? Or have you ever looked for a new color to paint your house and then suddenly you start spotting it in everything? This is the RAS at work.
The RAS is essentially your filter for your beliefs and what you deem important and that has been largely determined by your past experiences and beliefs (think neuroplasticity). This is where limiting beliefs come into play. If you had a particular experience that lead you to feel unworthy or inferior in some way your RAS will continue to filter every experience through that lens and will seek out or only let in information that confirms that feeling of inferiority and unworthiness (AKA, confirmation bias).
Your brain is malleable and able to change and shift based on the information you give it. Through well-worn neuropathways, sophisticated filters, and subconscious subjectivity, your brain really does focus on what you tell it to and will find more of it. So, the old adage “what you focus on grows” is true.
Knowing this, I ask you: How will you shape your brain?
For more on your brain and how to shift your focus check out :
This is Your Brain on Fear
Your Brain is Screwing you over
Fear and Self doubt
How to have more Motivation and Willpower
Nickerson, Raymond S. 1998
Confirmation Bias: A Ubiquitious Phenomenon in Many Guises. Review of General Psychology. Vol. 2, No. 2 175-220
Functions of the Reticular Activating System (RAS) in Neurology