The Keys to Survival: Seven Laws of Critical Focus
1. Our most recent experience influences what we focus on � whether we like it or not. We have a natural tendency to let our circumstances and surroundings choose our focus for us. Here�s a simple example. We can be driving happily down the road singing with the radio, but if someone cuts us off, we will become outraged and maybe even curse or yell at the other driver. We go from happy to mad in a split second. What is happening inside of us? Our most recent experience chose our focus for us, which sent signals to our brain to generate certain kinds of chemicals and hormones raging through our body. It is these chemicals and hormones that create the emotions we feel at any given moment � in this case anger. But, it is what we focus on that determines what chemicals and hormones flow through our bodies.
2. What we focus on determines what we believe. Trial lawyers and multi-billion dollar advertising companies understand this principle better than anyone. If someone can control what you focus on, they can control what you believe. At the beginning of every jury trial, trial lawyers file what is known as a motion in limine, asking the judge to exclude from evidence specific testimony, documents and exhibits that could hurt his client�s case. The lawyer who can keep the jury focused only on his evidence to the exclusion of the other lawyer�s evidence can control what they believe. Advertisers use this principle by giving us only visual images of the benefits of the products and none of images that show the risks and damaging effects of their products. This is because they know that what you focus on determines what you believe.
3. What we believe determines what we expect. What we believe determines what we expect out of the situation � as well as out of life. What we expect out of life determines what we get out of life. During the Korean War, the North Koreans did experiments on the prisoners of war. They told the ones with severe injuries that their injuries were minor and that they would live. They told the ones with minor injuries that their injuries were severe and that they would die. They repeated these messages every day. They fed them both the same amounts of food and water. Sure enough the ones with minor injuries tended to die and those with severe injuries tended to live. Why? Because by controlling what the prisoners focused on daily, the North Koreans could control what they believed. By controlling what they believed, they could control what they expected out of the situation. The prisoners� expectations did the rest.
4. We tend to see what we�re expecting to see. We tend to see and hear things that we�re expecting to see � even though they are not there. Here�s a real world example. In 1988, U.S. Naval Captain Will C. Rogers shot down an Iranian passenger jet, killing hundreds of innocent people because he thought it was an attack jet. There was absolutely no evidence to support this belief. But earlier that same day, his ship had been attacked by an Iranian gunboat. Tensions were high and the Captain was nervous. When the civilian jet approached, Captain Rogers saw a threat, and shot it down. On any other day, he would have let that jet fly right by. His expectations determined what he saw, which determined the options were available to him.
5. We tend to filter out what we�re not expecting to see. Behavioral scientists have coined the term �inattentional blindness� to explain how we can be looking directly at an object and still not see it. The reason for this is because we aren�t expecting the object to be there � or we aren�t expecting it to be in the shape or color that it is. Human beings have a natural tendency to create an �expected model� of the universe and then filter out everything that does not fit within that model. Here�s an example. When scientists tested commercial airline pilots on computers by putting large digital objects in the landing strip, most of the pilots kept landing the plane anyway. The pilot�s brains simply filtered the objects right out of their vision because they weren�t expecting them to be there. In real life, this can have devastating results.
6. The more we can see, the more options are available to us. From the earliest days of primitive man, human beings have been climbing to the highest hilltops in order to expand their ability to see what is going on around them. From a hilltop, humans could better see their enemy�s positions, the animals� travel patterns and keep a watch on the weather. The big question then is � how do we expand what we can see?
7. We have the power to choose what to focus on no matter what�s going on in the world around us. Most people let their circumstances, experiences and external factors choose their focus for them. That�s why most people are, in turn, crushed by those same external forces. They become frozen � like a deer in the headlights. Heroes are different. They consciously, deliberately take control of their focus every day � no matter what is going on in the world around them. By doing so, they can also control what they believe and what they expect in any given situation. As a result, they see and hear more of the world around them. Therefore, they are able to take advantage of options, opportunities, and escape routes that others don�t even see. That�s why choosing your own focus, consciously, deliberately, every day � no matter what�s going on in the world around you - is the most critical choice you can make.
�2006 Dan Castro