Sifting through the junk for the gems

1 August 2011
Alison Smith, senior purchasing consultant at Future Purchasing and life-coachRecently I tweeted that unless we follow people we disagree with, our twitter feed is likely to represent - and not challenge - our view of the world. That’s no different in other areas of our life. What we pay attention to normally supports our worldview. There are approximately 2 billion pieces of data coming into our senses every second. With that much data available, it would be easy to get overloaded. It’s the reticular activating system in the brain that acts as a filter. A sort of tracking system, it brings to our attention data it thinks is important to us. I see it as a spam filter that bases its assessment of importance on whether information is:
  • Important to our survival.
  • Is different or out of the ordinary.
  • Has emotional content for us.
  • Supports our beliefs.
  • Helps us achieve our goals.
Everything else ends up in the ‘junk mail’ folder. So once we set goals, we start to notice information that will help us achieve them – whether that’s useful information or people. Or why, for instance, when you buy a new car, you suddenly start to notice those of the same model on the road. There’s much we can do to become more aware and even set our own spam filter to ensure we’re not missing vital information. This is simply a reminder that your beliefs will determine what you notice. For example, many people believe white van drivers are careless and rude on the road. I bet you could pick out and remember an instance where one drove recklessly, but didn’t notice the higher percentage of occasions where another driver was courteous towards you. What needs to change in your thinking to stop useful information being diverted to your ‘junk mail’?
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