‘Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” ’ Hunter S. Thompson
Picking up The Answer is the first step in taking yourself down roads you may never have considered before and may not even have known about. By the time you are halfway through reading it, you will realise why you are where you are and why you have what you have at this point in your life. You will have the answers that will help take you to wherever you are capable of going.
In The Answer, we will show you how to decide what you really want out of life and how to get it. You’ll learn how to prioritise your ideas, reclaim your life, deal with obstacles and avoid being manipulated by others, especially friends and family members. We’ll help you to choose your own path, not one that someone tries to push you down. We will show you how to take charge of your life and become the person you want to be. You will discover how to deal with any circumstances that arise, no matter how difficult, overwhelming or hopeless they may seem when they first appear.
You will learn how to go from where you are now to where you’d like to be. We will show you the proven principles of success that men and women have used throughout history to achieve greatness and to recover from, or overcome, failure. Barbara and I learned many of these principles directly from some of the masters over the past fifty years, and these lessons are the main motivation for our own personal successes. We will also explain new studies of the brain that reveal why some people are hugely successful while others are failures. We will explore a brain operating system that you can program to take you anywhere you want to go. Starting with Guiseppe Moruzzi and H.W. Magoun, scientists have discovered a part of the brain that directs and determines the level of success or failure that each of us has in our lives. We will discuss this brain system in the first chapter, and the benefits that come from using it will form the basis of everything we cover throughout the book.
Also, we will answer your questions about anything you have ever read or heard about goal setting, visualisation, affirmations, prayer, alpha thinking and the Laws of Attraction.
We will discuss the simple but powerful skills we have learned that help us deal with almost everything that happens in life – good or bad. And we’ll answer the big questions about how to get anything you want from life, despite what can sometimes seem like impossible circumstances.
The concepts we will explore here have changed the lives of the participants in our seminars, and they can change your life too. This book is called The Answer because that’s what you’ll find in it.
So if life is a game, these are the rules.
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Many key points are repeated in several forms throughout the book, and this is intentional. Studies show that the most effective learning occurs with spaced repetition of an idea in a series of six exposures. The first time you hear or read a statement your mind can reject it because it may conflict with your preconceived ideas. This is why most motivational training doesn’t work. When you have heard the same idea six times, your brain can accept it and internalise it.
Finally, in case you’re wondering, while The Answer is co-authored by both of us, it is largely written in the first person as Allan to make it easier to read.
Allan and Barbara Pease
Revealing the Secret of the RAS
‘Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the body can achieve.’ Napoleon Hill
When Napoleon Hill made this landmark statement in 1937 in his classic book Think and Grow Rich, he didn’t have the medical science, brain scanners or technology we now take for granted to prove his beliefs. He claimed that if you could think clearly of something and you really wanted it, you could achieve it. Science has removed much of the mystery and hocus pocus surrounding iconic statements such as this one by Hill, and we now have scientific insights into the processes of achievement, goal-setting, self-fulfilling prophesies, the function of prayer and the Law of Attraction. Science can now show us where and how success works in the brain. You are about to learn about a remarkable system we each have in our brains – the Reticular Activating System or RAS.
The RAS, located in the brain stem of the mammalian brain, is a bunch of neural fibres commonly known as the Reticular Formation. The RAS plays a part in many important functions in human biology, including sleeping and waking, breathing, the beating of your heart and behavioural motivation. The RAS also contributes to sexual arousal, appetite and eating, the elimination of body waste, control of consciousness and the ability to bring certain things to your attention. Trauma to the RAS can cause a coma and has been linked to several medical conditions, including narcolepsy.
The RAS functions as a network of neurons and neural fibres running through the brain stem, and these neurons connect to various other parts of the brain. This system has two parts: the ascending RAS, which connects to parts of the brain including the cortex, the thalamus and the hypothalamus; and the descending RAS, which connects to the cerebellum and to nerves responsible for the various senses.
By the mid-twentieth century, physiologists had proposed that some structure deep within the brain controlled mental wakefulness, alertness and motivation.
Scientists first became aware of the existence of the RAS in 1949 when, at the University of Pisa, H.W. Magoun and Giuseppe Moruzzi investigated the neural components regulating the brain’s sleep–wake mechanisms and reported their findings in the inaugural volume of the scientific journal Electrocephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology. This early research eventually led to the discovery that the RAS is the portal through which nearly all information enters the brain. (Smells are the exception. They go directly into the brain’s emotional area.) The RAS filters the incoming information and affects what you notice – your level of arousal – and decides which information is not going to get access to your brain.
The Reticular Activating System.
The RAS is connected to the spinal cord at its base from where it accepts information that comes directly from the ascending sensory tracts. Any new information or learning must enter the brain through one or more of the senses and is decoded by the sense-specific receptors of the body. From there the information travels through the nerves in the skin or body to the spinal cord and up through the Reticular Activating System to the part of the brain that receives input from that particular sense.
The RAS is the brain’s Command and Control centre
The RAS is a place where your thoughts, internal feelings and outside influences meet. It produces dynamic effects on the motor activity centres in your brain and in the cortex activity, such as the frontal lobes. It is a network of nerve pathways that filter all the sensory input your brain receives from your external world. Whatever you see, hear, feel or taste passes through the RAS. Put simply, the RAS is the answer to switching on your brain and is the brain’s main centre of motivation.
How the RAS works
The brain processes over 400 million bits of information every second but only 2,000 bits can be processed consciously. The remainder is processed without your awareness. In other words, 99.9999 percent of the information presented to you every day goes unnoticed. This is the only way we can deal with everyday life and the millions of bits of information flooding into our awareness and demanding our attention. If you had to deal with all the messages simultaneously, you would not be able to cope and would pass out. So evolution has given us the RAS – the equipment to filter all information and to extract only what is important to us at any given moment.
Your RAS functions like a sorting office, evaluating the incoming information and prioritising that information in the form of messages that need your attention. It’s a filter between your conscious and subconscious mind, and it takes instructions from your conscious mind and passes them on to your subconscious. Your brain then instructs your body to make the physical actions necessary to comply with the image the RAS instructs. It sorts through your environment for information patterns that best match your beliefs or the things that are familiar to you. Then it links your thoughts and feelings with similar things in your environment. When it finds a match, your conscious mind is alerted.
Variations of the RAS
The RAS also exists in other primates. Chimpanzees, for example, share 99 percent of our DNA and, like humans, a chimp’s RAS receives all incoming sensory data. It scans and prioritises that data in accordance with its hardwired ‘programs’, just as it does in humans. It controls the chimp’s basic functions of pulse, sleep, awareness, digestion and cardiovascular function, as it does in humans. Where its function differs from that of humans is that we have a more highly developed sense of ‘self’. We are driven by an insatiable need to know who, what, why, where and when. A chimp’s RAS operates like a primitive computer that runs basic programs – a human RAS functions like the latest, most dynamic computer system.
In the brains of some people, the RAS can’t always efficiently excite the cortex as it should. Such people have difficulty learning, poor memory and little self-control. When the RAS is over-stimulated, our behaviour is marked by hyper vigilance, sensory hypersensitivity, constant talking, restlessness and hyperactivity. For people diagnosed with attention deficit disorders (ADD and ADHD), the ascending RAS does not have enough of the chemical norepinephrine to excite the cortex. Norepinephrine is the same chemical that is released whenever our heart rate increases, or our breathing hastens, and so on. People with ADD/ADHD can take drugs that temporarily make the RAS more efficient at using the norepinephrine it already has. This helps their concentration, their perception, their ability to memorise and improves their learning.
The RAS also deals with social contacts. Introverts have more activity going on in their RAS than extroverts. Scientists believe that the RAS of an introvert is aroused more easily than that of an extrovert because introverts often have difficulty talking to others, and when they do, their brains show a strong reaction, similar to a type of panic.
The RAS has a GPS and a search engine
Your RAS responds to your name, to anything that threatens your survival and to information that you need to know immediately. For example, if you’re looking for a computer file that you’re sure you placed somewhere on your desk, your RAS alerts your brain to search for the name of the file – say, an overseas travel itinerary – or it will focus on one word in the filename to help you find it. The function of the RAS is also what is often commonly called the Law of Attraction.
‘Marcus Aurelius said, “Man becomes what he thinks about all day long.” If that was true, I’d be a woman.’ Steve Martin
Your RAS has a built-in GPS system. With a GPS, you don’t need to know where all the roads are located in a given city. You only need to decide where you want to go. You input the data and the GPS directs you. If you take a wrong turn, it puts you back on track. The satellite software in a GPS works out how to get you there – and that is exactly how your RAS works. With a GPS you need to decide where you want to go, not how you will get there. In exactly the same way, once you’ve decided on your goal, your RAS begins to see everything connected with it. If you veer off course, it re-routes you. More on this later.
The RAS is also similar to a heat-seeking missile – you put in the co-ordinates of where you want it to go, press the launch button and it goes there. On the way, it filters out all the useless information around you and only keeps what’s relevant. For example, the instruction might be ‘Listen for my name’, so if you are walking through a busy shopping mall or airport and your name is called over the PA system, you’ll hear it.
The RAS works the same way as a heat-seeking missile.
How your belief system works
Scientists have found that the RAS also controls our belief system and it will only recognise or select information that supports our beliefs. This means that no matter what we believe or think, our RAS will pay more attention to it or will filter all other information around us to help us to get to what we have chosen to believe. This is why some people see opportunities whereas others see difficulties. It is also why some can believe things that the rest of us know are not true.
In the Chinese language, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters, one representing danger and the other, opportunity.
It is obvious that how you feel about any event is influenced by what you think it means. In other words, your belief system will determine whether your RAS will work for or against you. If you believe that you can only make money by working harder, you’ll only see information that confirms this belief and you’ll proceed in life as if this were true. Your RAS will filter out any opportunities that offer you ways to make more money without having to work harder.
Your RAS can either work for you or against you. It depends entirely on what you think about.
If you want your RAS to work for you, then you must program it to watch out for what you want, not for what you don’t want. When you program a specific idea or a goal into your RAS, it doesn’t matter whether you’re asleep or awake, or whether you’re thinking about it or not – the RAS will find precisely what you’ve told it to find, just like the search function on a computer. It will pick out the relevant data from the millions of bits of information around you for your attention and it will edit out irrelevant information. When you create a clear, focused picture of what you want, the RAS kicks into high gear and doesn’t stop until it finds it for you. We’ll explore this in more detail later.
How the RAS chooses which information it will see
Imagine that you’re walking through a busy, noisy airport terminal. Think of all the sounds that surround you – hundreds of people talking, music and announcements. You can hear the general background noise, but your RAS does not listen to each individual sound. Let’s go back to this example: an announcement comes over the PA, saying your name or your flight number. Suddenly, your attention is at its peak because your RAS brings this relevant information to your immediate, conscious attention. Your RAS acts as a filter, dampening the effect of all the other repeated stimuli, such as the loud noises, and prevents your senses from being overloaded. Then it brings your name forward.
Why you see your car everywhere
Have you ever noticed that once you have decided on the type of car you want to buy, it seems that every other car on the road is the one you are considering buying? You also see it in car parks, on TV and at shopping malls. That car is everywhere. This is because your RAS is working, filtering out the other cars (the unimportant information) and bringing the car of your thoughts to the forefront of your mind. The numbers of that particular car have not increased since you decided to buy it; it’s simply your RAS in action. If you lose interest in that car, you’ll no longer see it on the roads.
Your RAS is why you see your car everywhere you go.
When a woman becomes pregnant, it starts to seem to her as if every second woman around her is also pregnant. If you have a new baby in the house, you may be so tired that you can sleep through the noise of the traffic and noisy neighbours but as soon as the baby begins to cry you are wide awake.
In a very different example, if you choose to believe that the world and people are all bad, every time you turn on the TV or read a newspaper you’ll see tragedy, death and war. The RAS doesn’t care whether you love something or not, it only looks out for the patterns in your environment that match your dominant thoughts or beliefs.
If you are continually thinking about what you don’t like, then your RAS is being programmed to alert you to see what you don’t like. You will see so much of what you don’t want that it could seem as though you are at war with your environment.
This is why we will ask you to focus only on what you do want, not what you don’t want.
It turns out that Napoleon Hill was right – and now we have the science to prove it. You program your RAS with your self-talk and expectations. If your expectations are positive, you automatically program your RAS to seek information about positive behaviours and to screen out information about negative ones. Because of this biological filter function, whatever you are thinking about or focusing on will seep into your subconscious mind and reappear at a future time.
The exciting breakthrough is that you can deliberately program your RAS by choosing the exact messages you send to it from your conscious mind. This means you can now create your own reality. Nothing you will learn in this book is connected to willpower. It all happens in this small bunch of neural fibres running through your brain stem – your Reticular Activating System – your RAS.
In the following chapters you will learn how to program it.
‘There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’ Shakespeare
We hope you enjoyed this sample of The Answer by Allan & Barbara Pease!
Available now in print and e-book.