Be Careful What You Notice – It Creates Your Reality and What’s Possible

 In Better Life, Focusing on the positive, Negative emotions

Out of all the information that surrounds us coming in from all of our five senses, we actually only notice an extremely small percentage. According to Shawn Achor in his book, Before Happiness, the human brain receives more than 11 million bits of information per second, but can only process or “notice” about 40 bits per second.

Wow!  That’s an amazingly small percentage! How does it decide which bits to notice?

Out of the mammoth influx of sensory input, our brains have to decide what’s most important and helpful. As you may remember from my past tip, we notice what we look for, and our brains are heavily biased to notice the negative as part of our survival instinct.  Any potential danger or problems may require action on our part so it’s given the highest priority.  

In his book, Shawn also talks about how the things that our brains choose to pay attention to determine our reality, and our reality determines what we think is possible. He points out that there are many different realities to choose from with their own set of possibilities because there’s so much information to choose from.  
If we let our instincts with their strong negative bias decide what we pay attention to, our reality can start to look pretty dismal. For example, if I let my brain focus on my mistakes and failures, I may believe that I’ll fail in my future endeavors. If I pay attention to all the bad news in the media, I may start to believe that the world is a terrible place. If I notice all the things that my coworker (or partner or kid) do that bug me, I may believe that they’re always irritating and that I don’t like them, or that I don’t want to be around them. Just think about all the possibilities that these mindsets eliminate!

So why not strike a more accurate balance by training ourselves to see more of the good? Then we not only create a higher quality life, we also access possibilities that can provide more opportunities and success in our relationships, in our health, in our work, and in our lives. 

 As Henry Ford said, If you think you can or if you think you can’t, you’re right.



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Tina Hallis, Ph.D. is Chief Positivity Officer of The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to helping people and organizations increase their positivity to improve the quality of people’s work lives and the quality of company cultures. She is certified in Positive Psychology, an authorized partner for Everything DiSC®, and a Professional Member of the National Speaker’s Association

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