The Secret of the Red Objects

By Terry Small|10-05-2021 | 2 Min Read
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Photo by Daniele Levis Pelusi on Unsplash

How Our Brain Sees What is Essential Only

One of the most important things I've learned is that our brains are wired to see what is essential, not what is real. 
 
This is a secret that is simple, and powerful. It can help us see the world in new ways. 
We might even uncover "treasure" hiding in plain sight. 
 
Marcel Proust once said, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes." 
 
Let's imagine that you are in one of my presentations:
Part way through the talk, I say, "I'm going to give you a test. A memory test. You have 30 seconds to looks all around the room. Memorize as many blue objects as you can. Everything counts. What's blue? Go!"
 
After 30 seconds, I say, "Everyone please close your eyes. List out loud as many RED items as you can remember." You think, "I don't know! I was looking for "blue". 
 
And, "blue" is what your brain saw.
 
Our brains are wired to see what is essential, not what is real.
The question was, "What's blue?" And that's what you noticed. The other colours faded away. 
 
So, why is this important? For the word "blue" substitute gratitude, family, friends, generosity, kindness, health, sunsets ...
Now substitute anything negative. After all, the pendulum swings both ways ...... 
 
Brains see what they are looking for.
 
Consider this through the lens of neuroplasticity:
We all know someone who is really good at complaining. They weren't born that way.
They became a world-class complainer by practicing.
And, once a brain wires for complaining, it gets really good at seeing things to complain about everywhere.
 
The opposite is true for people whose brains are wired to notice generosity, and things in the world that are positive. 
 
In short, intention facilitates perception. 
 
A good question to ask every morning: "What am I looking for today?"
It's worth remembering, life reveals things one at a time. 
 
Here's another way to use our "mind's eye" to improve our lives.

This article is also available in Chinese.

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Terry Small is a brain expert who resides in Canada and believes that anyone can learn how to learn easier, better, and faster; and that learning to learn is the most important skill a person can acquire.
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