All of our senses - sight, sound, touch, taste and smell, gather information and send this information for processing to our brains. Our brains receive thousands of pieces of information every second. This is where your reticular activating system (RAS) comes in, your RAS is a small group of cells at the base of your brain stem. Its function is to act like a sorting office, evaluating the incoming information and prioritising that information in the form of messages that need your attention.

It’s the only way we can deal with everyday life and all of the millions of bits of information flooding into our awareness and demanding our attention. If we had to deal with all of this information, all of the messages at once we would not be able to cope. So our brains have given us the equipment to filter this information and extract what is important to us at any given moment. This equipment is your RAS.

Have you ever noticed that once you have decided on the kind of car you want to buy, it seems that every other car on the road is the one you are thinking of buying? Your RAS is working, it’s busy filtering out the other cars (the unimportant information) and bringing the car of your thoughts to the forefront of your mind. The numbers of that particular car have not increased since you took that decision; it’s your perception and your filtering system in action.

Your RAS acts as the filter between your conscious thought (I am thinking of buying that car, must keep a look out for them on the road, just to make sure I really do like its shape). Your subconscious mind gets to work and flags up that thought as an ‘Important –Take Note’ thought.
Another example: You have a new baby in the house. You are so tired you sleep through the noise of the traffic and the noisy neighbours but as soon as the baby begins to cry you are wide awake.
And another: You are a manager in a busy office. Information is coming at you from all directions, problems, questions, emails and phone calls. The only way you can get the next most important job completed is to filter out the unimportant information and store it away for later (in your subconscious or your notebook – whichever works best for you!). You can then place all of your attention on the task in hand. You may have several tasks on the go at one time; your RAS will help you to prioritise them.
Your RAS has two useful roles to play in goal achievement. The most powerful allies you have when goal setting is the written word and your imagination.
1. By putting your goal onto paper you engage all of your senses – your sight (looking at the words you have written). Your feelings (the feel of the pen and paper and the feelings produced by the excitement of the goal). Even you auditory sense is engaged because when you write you are speaking the words to yourself or even out loud. This is enough to place your RAS on alert.
2. Your mind, including your RAS, cannot differentiate between something that is vividly imagined and reality. It tends to believe your messages. If you see a rope under your bed in the half light and are convinced it’s a snake, then a snake you will see. You are convinced that you won’t like the taste of something even before you have tasted it, (remember the food you thought you hated as a child) chances are that in reality you won’t. The person who is frightened of spiders will see them in every corner, even when there are none.

So make sure you have a clear and positive picture or feeling of how you will be, what you will be and where you will be when you have achieved your goal. Visualise or imagine your desired outcome often and repetitively and your mind will begin to accept it as normal, acceptable and above all, achievable. Put all of your passion, all of your excitement and enthusiasm into imagining yourself when your goal is achieved. Enjoy yourself as you fill in the details, the more the better. Put a big grin on your face as you do this and it will help you to feel fantastic and full of hope and enthusiasm. (I know, people might think you are a bit weird when you walk around with a big, cheesy grin on your face, but when you achieve your goal and they are still moping about not getting what they want, you won’t care!) You can also use the same technique with each step of your goal; this will keep your motivation high and your focus in the right place.

All successful athletes practice their sport physically and mentally. Not only does a sprinter build his physical muscle by constant practice he also has a picture of himself winning each race. If he can’t see and feel himself crossing the finishing line in front of all other competitors, he stands little chance of ever winning. See yourself winning.

When you have set a goal that you are passionate about your RAS will focus your mind. You suddenly become aware of things that previously you may not have paid any attention to in the past, but now are useful or important to you and your goal. For instance, you know that your goal would be easier if you could only meet the right people to talk to. Whilst at a party you hear a person’s name mentioned, a person who has the connections that would help you move your goal forward. In the past you would have ignored the information because it was of no use to you, but when mentioned in the context of something you hope to achieve it suddenly becomes important. Now you make a point of introducing yourself and away you go. Your RAS has filtered that piece of information, that name and its possible connections, in a fraction of a second because it was activated when you decided what was important to you. Even though the party was noisy and the music loud, your RAS was able to hone in on that information.

The only time your RAS could have a problem getting your goal messages through, is when your belief system gets in the way. To counteract this, make sure your goal is well thought out and planned. If there are problems of self belief and your ability to reach your goal, check that your beliefs and your values support you. If not, work on any problem areas, step by step in line with each step of your goal.

Get in touch with the authentic ‘you’ rather than the person your self limiting beliefs would like you to be.

Author's Bio: 

Sue Saunders is the founder of Insight Coaching and Training. She is a Master Life Coach and Clinical Hypnotherapist, she also teaches Personal Development courses, Tai Chi and meditation. Sue works with her clients to free them from their limits and reach the heights of their potential.
She produces personal development CDs using traditional hypnotherapy techniques blended with the latest sound wave technology.