Every time I drive Capital of Texas Highway 360, I think about the things that I notice and why. Do you find a pattern? Do the same objects tend to catch your eye over and over? (The tacky signs with purposefully misspelled words). Reciprocally, do you miss the same things each time? (The mom and pop pizza place that’s closing because everyone else missed seeing it, too)?
How can we do that? How do we miss a sign just as colorful, just as evident over and again?
Even the definition of noticing is the investment of singular attention. By virtue of that investment of brainpower, we must deprive some other areas of our focus. Neglect a few things to prioritize another–now that’s a “duh” moment, but less obvious is the recent discovery that our brain takes this a step further by being selectively selective. (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/your-hidden-censor-what-your-mind-will-not-let-you-see/) This only means that what we ignore now, we would have ignored as much at a different age and stage. Those things maybe ignored by others just as often.
Studies have revealed some terrific nuances and conclusions concerning what we notice and don’t. (Read the article sited above.) But, what fascinates me is how our emotions filter everything that draws our attention.
If something scary, violent, pleasurable or exciting crosses our “radar,” we are much more likely not only to notice it, but to continue processing it in our conscious and subconscious mind. Anything we consider neutral may go unseen and surely will go unremembered. If we think about it longer, clearly we are imprinting it into memory. This is the reality that Hollywood depends on when “they” exaggerate violence and sex, a reality that translates directly into box office revenue.
Why does any of this make a difference to you or I? Because in all of us lives the innate desire to be noticed. Equally, most of us want to see the important things and remember… whether for our convenience or simply doing life.
Moreover, what’s relevant to positive living is this: no one with a heart or a conscience wants to skim past people just because they aren’t particularly noticeable. We don’t want to treat any individual like the telephone pole we’ve zipped past every day for five years without seeing the tribute to a car crash victim tacked to it in plain sight. Poles can pass into oblivion, but God didn’t mean for a humanbeing to be unseen. Or unloved.
In this mindset, I went hunting…
After reading about six articles (this was the most practically applicable– http://superheroyou.com/how-to-be-more-observant/), I found the following list to be a fair summary of what we can do to become more observant.
- Use all five sense all of the time.
- Be in the present.
- Don’t be guilty of drawing quick conclusions.
- Don’t rely on technology to be your memory
- Take mental snapshots
- Keep a narrative of what’s important in your own head
I’ve set out to do better, to practice, to make this a life experiment, and to see if this changes my awareness and capacity for helping others. I’ll keep you posted.
Meanwhile, why don’t you give it a shot as well?
Knowing more by seeing more sustains forward motion.