In one of the most well-known psychological tests, volunteers watched a video of two basketball teams – one wearing white shirts, the other wearing black shirts – passing a basket. As they watch, the volunteers have to count the number of times the white team has passed the ball. About 25 seconds into the video, a person wearing a gorilla suit walks straight into action for five seconds.
Afterward, viewers record the number of episodes and answer a series of additional questions, such as, Did you see anything unusual in this video? When psychologists tried this on 200 people, 46 percent of them missed the gorilla. When researchers later told them about it, many of them refused to believe that they had missed anything so obvious and wanted to see the video again.
Why have so many of them failed to see you for the first time? Because they were so focused on counting worlds, their neural filters had already discarded the gorilla’s sight in a spam folder. This study highlights what researchers call blindness of indifference, our inability to see what is often in front of us if we do not focus on it. In short, we tend to miss what we do not want.
This idea of choice and why, when we want something, we see it everywhere. You’ve probably found this one million times. You hear a song once, and suddenly it seems like it’s always on the radio. You buy a new style of shoes, then everyone wears them. Well, nothing has changed in these cases – other than your focus.
Try this little experiment. Close your eyes and think in red. Now open your eyes and look around the room. Does red come out everywhere? Assuming the elves did not turn your furniture while your eyes were closed, your change in vision is only due to your change.
Instead of creating a pattern of understanding that looks at the negative and hinders success, we need to focus on training our brain to scan the world for new opportunities and ideas. When our brain is constantly scanning and focusing on the good, we benefit from three of the most important tools available to us: happiness, gratitude, and hope.
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