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  • Michele Duhigg

The True Focus of the Reticular Activating System

This is the exact reason you’re not living your ideal life right now.


Growing up we experience a series of events both good and bad. Each event creates an emotion. That emotion filters through our brain and creates a reaction. It’s not until we're older we realize we have control over our reactions.

We’re frustrated because we want certain things or to feel a specific way. We’re frustrated because we want that promotion at work or a love story relationship. But for some reason, we can’t seem to shake off certain emotions.

Does this sound familiar?

Our brains receive a constant stream of sensory stimuli. Some important, some not important, some good, some bad. Those stimuli then get sorted, and the ones requiring attention get sent to our conscious minds. The subconscious filter behind which stimuli get a ticket to the conscious mind is called the Reticular Activating System – and it plays a key role in every moment of your life.

By the end of this article, you'll have a solid understanding of the RAS. You'll also know how to use it so you can create the life you want.

3 Powerful Functions of the Reticular Activating System

Let's imagine your RAS as being the secretary to a major corporation. It sits at the top of your brainstem sorting through files of past events. With each new experience, the RAS searches for a response action to send to the "boss" – your consciousness. Absorbing what’s useful and kicking out the bad.

When you wake up it’s because RAS sent a little energy messenger straight to your consciousness saying “your alarm is blaring open your eyes!” When you fall asleep at the same time every night your RAS knows to send sleep signals at that time. But the function we'll want to focus on most is the fight or flight response.

Fight or flight is a fear-based action sent by the RAS to protect us. This was useful in our primitive years. For example, if we watched a tiger kill an antelope, our RAS would tell the subconscious to stay clear of tigers. In today’s world, that might look like jumping into action after getting into a car accident, or spider senses for someone who’d break your heart. But when it comes to our every day first-world lives, our fight or flight responses can be more limiting than helpful.

#1: It's Amazing How Your Subconscious Creates Your Reality

Your Reticular Activating System makes up your subconscious. You may think you have control over what you’re thinking – but in reality, your RAS is operating on autopilot. It’s telling your conscious brain to wake up, go to work, workout, go home, eat, and then do it all over again.

Sometimes you feel like a zombie. You feel sluggish and slow. Like life is just happening to you. Did you even consciously think to start the coffee maker or walk out the door? Probably not – because you’ve developed a pattern. Like walking in the snow, over time your path becomes deeper.

This is your subconscious calling the shots – so your brain can be efficient with its energy.

A red corvette speeds past you and you experience a rush of wanting one. Now you see that corvette everywhere. You have to have one. But you don't have the money, because your job doesn't pay enough. Because deep down you have a limiting belief about money – creating the thought that you'll never own a red corvette.

You need to align your subconscious mind with your conscious brain. Once aligned your subconscious will find evidence to make your new thoughts a reality.

#2: Limiting Beliefs Challenge the Bottom Line

Limiting beliefs are negative thoughts we have about ourselves. We may look at others and think “I'll never find someone to love me,”or “That life wasn’t meant for me,”or “I’ll never have a body like hers.”

These beliefs play on repeat in our subconscious.

At one point in your life you experienced an event proving that thought to be true. You see a "beautiful person" doing squats in their living room. You notice how many "likes" they have. You want similar attention so you try to look, speak, and act just like that person. Thinking if you act like them you’ll get the same results. Then, when you don’t get those results you feel it has to be an issue with you.

So you move through life feeling self-conscious of your body. You exhaust every option out there to change it. But in reality, the reason you’re not getting your desired results is that your RAS is programmed to believe "your body isn't beautiful."

Here’s the good news – we can change your beliefs together. We’ll find evidence to prove your ideal life already exists. It just takes time to create a new path.

#3: Your Actions Can Guarantee a Breakthrough for Limiting Beliefs

Earlier I said you don’t have control over your emotions. But if you become aware of them you'll know what actions you can take to change your reality.

For example, you want a promotion at work, but you have a limiting belief about money. In your past, you were taught to save every dime instead of buying that thing you wanted. The thought produced was, “you weren’t worth investing in.”

So now you have a fear producing the thought "I’m not worthy of an extravagant life." Every day it seems like you're making some new mistake. Your attitude is sad, and you’re uncertain of your future. Your boss passed you up for a promotion saying “your work quality is great, but you don’t seem motivated to be here.”

You're stunned.

But what if when you heard "you’re unworthy" you fought back by saying, “No, I'm qualified to be here because they hired me.” You getting hired is the proof that you’re worthy. Your attitude is empowering because you’ve worked through struggle. Your boss notices how you mentor your coworkers through their struggles. And finally...

You’re promoted!

Before you know it, you're zooming down the highway in your paid-off red corvette.


Invest in Certain Energy Over Fearful Beliefs

When you make a choice to invest in yourself you create feelings of happiness. You choose to get your nails done and a happy spark is sent through your body.

You subscribe to your favorite streaming service, a happy spark.

Go on vacation, happy spark.

Eat that ice cream, happy spark.

You’re certain you want that thing because you know it’ll make you happy. So you do whatever you can to make it happen.

But, you have a brain that lies to you and tells you stories. You may have limiting beliefs about relationships or money. But if you become aware of them, you can start to change them.

The Reticular Activating System’s function can seem overwhelming – but with the help of a “mind organizer” (aka coach) we can rewrite your subconscious and create a life you envy.



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