by Michael Plank

We do a thing in our private members’ group each week that we call Bright Spot Fridays. It’s an invitation to share “bright spots” – or highlights – from the week. People talk about new achievements they’re proud of, or about going to dinner with their spouse, or about reading a great book… anything at all really that stands out as a positive experience. On the surface it seems a little hokey. But it’s powerful. And here’s why.

There’s a part of your brain called the Reticular Activating System. Basically, it’s a filter. Your brain takes in mountains of information every day, and your Reticular Activating System sorts through it so that you only have to pay attention to stuff that’s important. A cool thing about that filter is that it’s easily trainable. It’s why, when you buy a new gray Honda Pilot, all of a sudden you see 40 gray Honda Pilots every time you step out of your house. Obviously they’re not all brand new since yesterday, but of all the hundreds and hundreds of cars you see every day, you’ve told your brain that gray Honda Pilots are important. So now, every time one goes by, your Reticular Activating System flags it so that you notice it.

It’s the same for your mom’s best friend who always finds 4-leaf clovers, when you’ve never seen one. Or your uncle who spots bald eagles every time he goes fishing. Or your gym buddy who can always find you a rower if you’re in the market (Oh yeah… we have a rower guy! You know who you are!). What that means practically is that at least some of those internet memes about positive thinking are actually true. You do find what you’re looking for. If you look for gray Honda Pilots, you find them. If you look for 4-leaf clovers or bald eagles or rowers, you find them.

That’s also true of intangibles.

Meaning this… if you look for negative things, you find them. If you look for positive things, you find them. It’s no accident that some of the people who most consistently post their bright spots are also the people with some of the best results. They’re looking for what’s going right in their lives and then, when their Reticular Activating System finds it and flags it for them, they double down on it and the results compound. (Note: This is NOT to say that when real hardship and tragedy strike you just need to look on the bright side – far from it. Nor is it to say that positive thinking is supremely powerful. It IS to say that positive thinking matters. More than many people think.)

Finding Bright Spots – or keeping a gratitude journal, or writing affirmations, or making a vision board – are all practices. And they all seem silly, at first. But don’t underestimate them. And for UPCF members, when Friday comes around and you see that Bright Spot Friday post, throw something up in the comments this week!