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The Reticular Activator 

The Reticular Activator 

I always laugh when I think of this conversation that I had about ugly babies with former community leader, who shall remain nameless.  He said, “As a leader, people often introduce me to their children and grandchildren and some of those babies are, let’s just say, FLK’s—Funny Looking Kids.” Some of you might be thinking, “Oh, that’s so mean!”  Others are thinking about a specific baby right now!  Either way, I loved the way this leader said he always handled this introduction by saying, “Oh, it’s a baby!”  Hard to argue with that one.  By all definitions, it was a baby.  Just not a cute baby.  But, it’s all in how you say it.  If you have a lilt in your voice and a make the sentence sing-songy, it sounds remarkably like a compliment!  Try it!  “Oh, it’s a Baby!”  See, what I mean.

This story popped up in my head when I was talking to my friend, Tim, about the Reticular Activator.  You can easily see how my brain went from ugly babies to Reticular Activator, right?  Well, for those of you who didn’t see the immediate correlation, let me explain.  The Reticular Activator is part of your brain that is on constant alert.  Its main job is to make you notice some things and ignore other things.  I remember this well from when I was pregnant.  Suddenly, everywhere I looked I noticed pregnant women.  In the store.  On television.  In Books.  It seemed like preggos were taking over the world!  Alas, that wasn’t really true, it was just my Reticular Activator at work, making me notice them.

Perhaps you had the same experience when you bought a new car.  You buy a Jeep and all the sudden…Jeeps, Jeeps, everywhere!  Since you were focusing on Jeeps as you researched and made the purchase, your Reticular Activator kicked in and helped you notice all things Jeep.  The brain’s a marvelous thing, isn’t it?

So, as I tend to do, I wondered how this remarkable Reticular Activator might work on other things, things maybe altogether different than pregnancies or cars—things like communities.

I’ve heard a lot recently in Grant County about our narrative—you know the stories we tell ourselves, the stories we tell each other, and the stories we tell acquaintances, visitors, and whoever sits next to us on the airplane.  Honestly, think about it.  If someone comes up to you at Meijer and asks you what there is to do in Grant County, what’s your immediate go-to answer?  Is it positive, like, “You have to get some barbecue from Jefferson Street Grill and don’t skimp on the sauce, it’s to die for!”? Or, is it negative, as in, “Well, you’re doing it.  Shopping at Meijer is as good as it gets!”

I believe the narrative that you choose to tell has a direct link to your Reticular Activator.  Just like being pregnant or buying a Jeep makes you notice those very things, jumping immediately to a negative narrative correlates directly to what you choose to focus on:  negativity.  <Boom> Let that marinate for a moment, won’t you?

In fact, it’s all about your focus.  This is why it’s important to set goals for yourself.  When you set a goal, your mind puts a concentrated motivation on achieving said goal.  It works like auto-pilot–you set your mind to concentrate on something and your brain responds accordingly.  That focus sets off the Reticular Activator and, all the sudden, your bewildering brain is automatically conditioned to see things you may have ignored before you established your focus. It will almost feel like the world is conspiring to help you out!

Tim told me another story about his friend, Terri Andrews.  Apparently, Terri is top-notch and has a reputation for being uber-positive.  I like her already!  She’s been known, as she says, to be a ‘reverse paranoid’—she believes everyone is out to help her!  With that attitude, her Reticular Activator is always on the lookout for people that really can help her!  This is not brain surgery or rocket science…it’s brain science!  You can’t make this stuff up!

So, as Dr. Seuss says, “You have brains in your head.  You have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”  So, use your head.  Let the brain do what the brain can do.  Change your lens, if needed, and re-focus.  Concentrate on all that’s right with the world and Grant County, specifically.  If you wish to be more generous, then focus on that and you will certainly find ways that  your time, talent, and treasure can be invested locally.  Have you been a Negative Nelly and wish to change your narrative?  Set a goal to be more positive about Grant County and all that it has to offer.  (Start here if you’re not sure.)  And prepare yourself to answer that question more positively if an acquaintance, a visitor, and whoever sits next to you on the airplane asks where you’re from, by following these three steps:

Step 1:  Admit that you’ve been lacking a positive focus.
Step 2:  Commit to focus on a new and improved narrative of Marion and Grant County.
Step 3:  Let your Reticular Activator do its thang.

Let’s face it, ugly babies can’t help it if they’re ugly…being born is hard work and it’s not for the weary!  But, being ‘that guy’ that’s always negative, who doesn’t have a kind word to say, and sees the glass as completely empty…well, that guy’s got some work to do.  Luckily, the Reticular Activator is here to help.  Put on a fresh set of lenses and rediscover Grant County, friends! What have you got to lose?

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