Assuming you haven’t been hiding under a rock for the last decade, you’ve probably heard of the uber-successful franchise The Secret. One of the largest criticisms of the book/movie is its (apparently) highly controversial thesis that you can manifest anything in life simply by visualizing it. This over simplification of the concept misses the point. In her new best seller Think or Sink, Gina Mollicone-Long dives deeper into the issue and teaches us the science behind The Secret.
Visualization is only one half of the story. It’s an important half, and one that should not be written off or belittled, but there is a crucial foundation that is glossed over. Today we will fill you in on the “back story” and explain how the secret of The Secret can be harnessed in your life.
The Small Slice of Reality
"…we can process about 7 x 18 = 126 bits of information per second. It is estimated that there are millions of bits of information available to you in any given second."
Have you ever bought a car – a car that you believed was fairly rare – and then immediately started to see many more of them on the road than ever before? No, a million other people did not buy the car the same day you did. Instead, after focusing on the car in great detail for a period of time, you effectively trained your mind to notice it. The number of cars of that model on the road hasn’t changed, but your perspective and focus has.
Definitive research has shown that our conscious minds have the limited ability of processing 126 bits of information per second. A large role of our unconscious mind is to filter the millions of bits of information that we’re bombarded by every second and delete, distort and generalize it, allowing us to focus on that which we deem important. In the car example above, we’ve effectively trained our minds to highlight the model we just bought and register it consciously. We change our focus, and suddenly the world around us presents us with evidence that supports our new, deliberate train of thought. It isn’t cosmic magic, it’s our brain at work.
It’s actually pretty neat stuff. Whether you can relate to the car example above, or can think of another example, you probably know what I’m talking about. Our brains are amazing devices that present us with the data we choose to focus on. The point is that your brain likes making sense of the world; you’ll typically find supporting details for your beliefs. So shift your beliefs.
Problem Solving Flaws
"There is a huge difference between problem-focused thinking and solution-focused thinking."
The Secret says, “Whatever you focus on, expands.” The misinterpretation is that whatever you focus on will be manifested in the world around you. No wonder a lot of people find that hard to swallow. The truth is that whatever you focus on will be brought to your conscious awareness.
Think about your biggest challenge in life right now. If you spend your time thinking about the problem, your unconscious brain will filter all the million bits of information being thrown at you each second and present you with more evidence to support the problem. Your brain likes being right. Which doesn’t really help you solve the problem, does it? Try shifting your focus from the problem to the solution. What is it you really want to accomplish? This isn’t blind optimism, and it’s not a suggestion that you gloss over the problem. Instead, it’s a reminder that the problem shouldn’t be your biggest focus – the solution should be. Focus on the ideal solution long enough, and your brain will shift gears. It will start providing evidence – evidence that was already around you, but not consciously recognized – that you can then use to work towards the solution (and by definition, around or through the problem).
Professional athletes do this all the time. They focus on the ideal outcome, and visualize, as vividly as possible, all the steps necessary to actualize it. Focus on “not falling”, and your brain gets caught up in the “falling” portion of the process. Focus instead on greatness. If it works for Olympic athletes (and it has, for years), it’s certainly worth trying in your own life.
Reality (Big ‘R’)
"The key to maintaining your power is to remain present to what is actually happening instead of giving in to the meaning created in your internal representation."
So your brain is only processing 126 bits a second out of the millions of bits available. If you can embrace this fact, one of the first realizations is that your “reality” (little ‘r’) is only a small fraction of true Reality (big ‘R’). This is why two people can watch the exact same event and have two totally different interpretations of what happened.
We take in the millions of bits of Reality (big ‘R’) through our five senses. Our reality (little ‘r’) is the culmination of 126 of those bits, combined with our own internal voice. That voice is based on past experiences and expectation. Can you start to see how skewed your version of reality can be from the real thing? Those who believe their reality to be absolute (i.e. the only way of seeing the world), can often be frustrated, disappointed and confused by the outcomes they experience. When the outcome of your actions is wildly different from what you expected (heck, even if it is a little different), you have to choose whether you stubbornly resist the truth, or accept it as feedback. Those who resist will continue the cycle anew – holding firm to their skewed beliefs and expecting different results. Success goes to those who humbly learn from their experiences; to those who use their results as feedback, showing them the variance between their internal voice’s interpretation of Reality and the reality they’d like to experience. All of this is to say that there are virtually an infinite number of ways to interpret a result and that “failure” is simply an opportunity to adjust our focus and understanding so that we might take in more of the bits of information that support our ideal outcome in the future.
Mollicone-Long’s book Think or Sink is a really neat read. It gives us great insight into the workings of the human brain, and teaches us how we can systematically train it to support and create the outcomes we desire. Anyone who’s read or watched The Secret should make this required reading. For me, it cements and grounds the ideas from the hugely successful franchise and teaches us how we can actually apply the concepts to our lives.