We have a special family tradition with our children. For their 12th birthday, they can select any city in the continental United States to visit for a special celebration with just Mom and Dad, with no siblings. Our middle child decided on New York City to celebrate her 12th birthday.

Having been there many times ourselves, it was fun to see the wonderment in a first-time visitor's eyes as she took in the lights of Times Square, the windows of the shops along Fifth Avenue, the view from the Empire State Building, and the ethnic richness of Chinatown and Little Italy.

Since our hotel was near Times Square, we walked a well-worn path down Broadway during our stay. Times Square really is the ultimate in sensory overload. During nearly a dozen trips down the same street, we noticed something new every time. Whatever item we were looking for seemed to magically appear even though we had previously walked past it numerous times without noticing--a souvenir shop, a deli, a street vendor selling scarves, a hot dog stand, live musicians, or Italian cannoli. This experience reminded us once again that the things we pay the most attention to reflect what we think about most.

If we change what we think about, what we notice in our surroundings will change. We call this connection between our thoughts and our attention "The Yellow Car Phenomenon."

For example, when was the last time you saw a yellow car that wasn't a taxi? Maybe last week or last month? Now that we have made you aware of yellow cars and you are thinking about them, you will start seeing more of them. The same is true when you buy a new car; suddenly you see the same make, model, and color everywhere you look.

Julie says the phenomenon also occurs for a pregnant woman; everywhere you look, you see other pregnant women. Is there a sudden invasion of pregnant women? Of course not; they've been there all along, and so have the yellow cars and the same make and model car you purchased. The difference is, because you are thinking about them, you more readily notice them.

This phenomenon is rooted in neuroscience. The reticular activating system (RAS) is the brain's filter between the subconscious mind and conscious mind. Without you being aware of it, the RAS sifts through the millions of pieces of information, stimuli, and data coming into your brain from all your senses. The RAS then filters out the irrelevant and brings only the relevant information to your conscious mind.

So, the RAS decides what you put your attention toward, and allows your conscious mind to focus only on that which you've determined is useful right now. This explains why, on our walks down Broadway in New York City, we didn't notice the Italian cannoli when we were looking for scarves. But once we were hungry, we saw cannoli galore!

Check Your Mental Focus

 Last week, we shared The Yellow Car Phenomenon that is rooted in neuroscience. The reticular activating system (RAS) is the brain's filter between the subconscious mind and conscious mind. Without you being aware of it, the RAS sifts through the millions of pieces of information, stimuli, and data coming into your brain from all your senses. The RAS then filters out the irrelevant and brings only the relevant information to your conscious mind. In other words, we see what we look for.

So, the RAS decides what you put your attention toward, and allows your conscious mind to focus only on that which you've determined is useful right now. This explains why you will see more yellow cars today.

Now, we will share how you can master your RAS to build a positive coaching mindset. 

The things we focus on create a magnet for our lives. If we focus on the negative, we tend to see more negatives. For example:

  • Focus on problems, and obstacles are plentiful.
  • Focus on things outside of your control, and you will easily throw in the towel and give up in frustration.
  • Focus on fear versus faith, and you will be paralyzed with inaction.
  • Focus on weakness instead of strengths, and you will miss your natural giftedness.
  • Focus on the drama that life offers, and your life will be a soap opera.

What does the RAS have to do with coaching? Inspiring coaches use "The Yellow Car Phenomenon" to focus on the positive:

  • Focus on opportunities, and doors seem to open.
  • Focus on forgiveness, and you will find the world forgiving.
  • Focus on the comedy life offers, and your life will be full of laughs.
  • Focus on what is going well, and you build your team's confidence.
  • Focus on learning and moving forward, and stumbling blocks are converted into stepping-stones.

The world reflects your view of it, so if you change the way you look at things, things change the way they look.

When coaching your team, look for "yellow cars." In other words, look for the good stuff. The more you focus on the positive, the more you will create positive out- comes for you and your team.