“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” ~Napoleon Hill
Have you ever been in the market for a certain vehicle, let’s say for example a diamond white SUV, and all of a sudden you start seeing them everywhere?
Or how about when you learn a new word or phrase, and suddenly you are seeing and hearing that word left and right?
When you experience these types of phenomena’s it is called “frequency illusion” or the “Baader-Meinhof phenomenon,” which is the phenomenon where one stumbles upon some obscure piece of information — often an unfamiliar word or name — and soon afterwards encounters the same subject again, often repeatedly.
The brain is an amazing thing, and there are studies that show how the brain has prejudice towards patterns. I read an article recently that talked about how the brains ability to recognize patterns is exceptional for learning, but it can also cause us to “lend excessive importance to unremarkable events.” So of course, this got me thinking…
If our brain is subject to find connection or meaning in things that are maybe coincidental or totally unrelated, are we looking for purpose in the wrong places? Or even better yet, are we finding meaning in things that really don’t matter?
Think about the topic of love and finding “the one.”
I have a friend who has not had the best luck in relationships. She is one who loves fiercely and dives in head first, often to her own demise.
In a recent conversation she was talking about meeting a new guy and how there are so many signs pointing to why they are a good match and how she sees characteristics of her “Prince Charming” in him.
While stories like Cinderella definitely influence us ladies from a young age to search out our own version of Prince Charming, this whole conversation got me thinking…
If you are actively searching for someone to fit a certain role in your life… if you are looking for Prince Charming to sweep you off your feet… are you going to find those characteristics in a person that gives you the attention you desire but truly doesn’t possess what you’re looking for?
In other words, if your brain is looking for someone to be a match for you, are you going to overlook their short-comings because you’re so set on looking at the characteristics that will fill a void in your heart?
If you are actively looking for a reason to love a person, or to find connection you’ve been missing, does it cause you to completely overlook the subtle signs that someone may in fact not be a long-term match?
If the brain can’t help but place significance on seemingly insignificant things, how do you make a clear judgement call on important factors, such as relationships, in your own life?
Another example of the impact of how we choose to focus our attention lies in our own behaviors.
Think about this —when you are having a bad day, or I should say when something bad happens in your day, do you naturally find reasons that you should be happy? While my wish is that everyone could embrace the idea that “every day isn’t good but there is something good in every day,” I realize that is not reality.
When we have one bad experience, it tends to be human nature to dive down that proverbial rabbit hole head first.
Suddenly a bad day at work turns into an annoying drive home where everyone is going SO SLOW…
Which turns into walking in the door and seeing a pile of dishes in the sink so naturally you’re ticked at your spouse cause clearly that’s their fault…
Which turns into being annoyed with your kids cause maybe they should do more chores around the house…
Which turns into you being mad that the laundry wasn’t done yesterday…
Which turns into remembering ALL of the times your spouse and kids forgot to take out the trash, do the laundry, wash the dishes…
Which then turns into everyone being out to get you and you’re mad that your husband didn’t buy you that special bracelet you wanted 2 years ago on your anniversary!
Ok maybe I’m speaking from experience, but you get my drift.
The point here is that if you allow one negative thought to take up space in your head, all of a sudden, your brain starts looking for a pattern, so instead of realizing that it was a bad moment, not a bad day, you’ve allowed yourself to focus on everything that could go wrong.
This is why Murphy’s Law is still a thing — everything that can go wrong, will — because our brain is naturally inclined to look for more bad things if one bad thing occurs.
So, where are you focusing your attention? What are you actively looking for in life, in relationships, in your career?
If it is true that your brain is prone to recognize patterns, and if Napoleon Hill is correct that “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve,” then we better be careful what we choose to focus our attention on!
When you look at your life, what are the patterns you find?
Do you find yourself falling in love over and over again, only to later realize that the characteristics you saw in your Prince Charming are in fact less charming and more alarming?
Think about your life as a whole, are bad things constantly happening to you? Or do you believe that everything in life happens for you?
I defer back to the new vehicle example that I gave at the beginning of this post… we see what we devote our attention to. Our brain naturally finds pattern in what we deem as important.
So when you are looking at what you focus much of your time and attention on, what are the commonalities in your life?
If you believe your life sucks, guess what? You’re right! And your brain will naturally look for points to prove that belief.
But you know what else that means?
If you believe that life is great, that it is filled with abundance, that even the darkest moments provide some sort of purpose, then you’re also correct in that thought, and your brain will find ways to prove that as well.
My challenge to you is to be conscious with your thoughts. To focus on the things that bring you joy. To try to find the good in every day versus the bad. To recognize that a bad moment does not equal a bad life.
And if you are looking for Prince Charming… if you are looking for a love that will fill your heart… by all means sister, pursue your definition of happiness. But be aware that the brain is a powerful thing that will find what it is looking for, even in the wrong place.
Don’t allow fear to hold you back from what you want most, but be conscious in your thoughts and careful in your decisions.
In answer to my first posed questions — while I believe it is possible to find purpose in things that really don’t matter, I also believe this is sometimes what you need to do in order to make it through those bad moments. This allows you to embrace the fact that it is in fact a bad moment, and not a bad life.
And if finding meaning in something is what helps get you through life’s most difficult times, then by all means, embrace those thoughts. Just be mindful of the fact that your brain might be looking for patterns in the wrong place.
It’s been said time and time again that if you can learn to manage your thoughts, you can control your life. Think about the power in that statement!
Spiritual teacher, author, lecturer, entrepreneur and activist Marianne Williamson once brilliantly said, “You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be.”
If you want to level up your life — find purpose in the bad, embrace the good, know your brain’s susceptibility to patterns and focus your attention on what brings you joy and fulfillment!
Featured photo courtesy of Jimmy Chang on Unsplash