Happy New Year everyone and welcome to our first post for 2024.

Today we’re talking about what you notice about what you notice; how your focus works – with a couple of experiments for you to try to see for yourself what we mean.

What does it mean?

Have you ever noticed that once you start thinking about something, you see it everywhere? If not, here’s a little experiment; choose something (like a red car) and really picture it. Have you got it? What do you notice about what you notice? Now, over the next few days, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll see more (red cars) than you’ve ever seen before. Is this because there are more red cars on the road? Nope. It’s because your attention is directed towards red cars.

This is known as the “frequency illusion,” aka Baader-Meinhof effect. It’s a cognitive bias effect – you’re thinking about something, so your brain notices it more. It often happens with novel things such as if you’ve recently learned about a new author and you notice their books more often. It doesn’t mean that their books are more plentiful, just that your brain clocks it; the brain likes patterns and predictability so it can make sense of the world and feel safe.

It’s also one way that marketeers sell you more stuff. They advertise to you, so you’re thinking about a product. Then, you see the product more in your daily life, think it’s popular, and therefore good, so you buy it. In a nutshell – I’m not a marketing guru, but I know about psychology and neurology!

How is this relevant to your life?

Well, let’s think about this. Did you try the red car experiment yet? Let me know how it goes.

In the meantime, say you want to change a behaviour. Maybe you want to change your weight, but every time you go shopping, all you notice is the yummy cakes and biscuits and you can’t resist them.

Or, if you’re a rider, and you want to do that oxer with style and flow, yet whenever you approach, all you notice is your horse’s stride changing, you getting tense and then the jump is knocked down.

This can keep you stuck in behaviour and outcomes, no matter how hard you try and change. Willpower on its own won’t work. Whatever you’re reinforcing, you’ll see more and it can often leave us feeling helpless. And, it’s often where our focus is that’s keeping us in the same place.

If we find other strategies, it’s often to avoid the thoughts altogether. This can take up a lot of energy and it can sometimes catch us out if we’re off guard as we haven’t really changed the neural habits. When this happens, we try even harder to avoid it. I won’t buy biscuits and cakes. I won’t buy biscuits and cakes. Guess what you just bought? I won’t get tense over the jump – oh dear!

So, how to change?

There are many ways to do this, which I’ve helped many clients experience. Today, we’re going to explore the simplest one. Simply thinking of what you DO want to happen, not what you DON’T. So, we’re going to rehearse what we DO want to notice, not what we DON’T. Paying attention to what we DO want, rather than what we DON’T want is a really easy, effective way to change our thinking. Let’s try it.

You’re going to the supermarket, maybe have a clear picture of some fruit you’d like to buy. Get that image really clear. What do you notice about what you notice? Now, off you go – your chances of buying the fruit is way higher now.

You want to jump that oxer. What picture will be helpful to have in your mind? Clearing it effortlessly with a beautiful approach, riding at one with your horse who is focused completely on the jump – a much more helpful way of being successful.

When you have a clear picture in this way, rather than in that old way, you’re pointing your brain in a better direction. And, when you do this, you’re much more likely to act in this way than in that old way.

As always, I love hearing about your success stories, so please keep getting in touch via social media, email, message or comment below.

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one thing for wellbeing - for your horse