Look for Something and You’re Likely to See It

iStock_000015818881XSmall-noticingHave you ever noticed that once you make up your mind about something, you start seeing lots of evidence that supports your decision?

Your “sightings” aren’t the result of Divine intervention.

They happen because your brain, like mine and everyone else’s, selects from among the gigabytes of available information and presents you with just the right things to match your conclusions.

According to Chris Chabris and Dan Simons, co-authors of The Invisible Gorilla, our minds prefer coherence to accuracy. And in their quest for coherent meaning, our brains leave out or conveniently fail to notice the data that doesn’t fit.

You’re Blind to What Doesn’t Fit

That’s right. You literally don’t “see” the incongruous pieces. And to compound the strangeness, your brain is wired to believe that you’ve seen it all.

Citing study after study, Chabris and Simons document this peculiar functioning of the mind, showing with great clarity that we are blind, deaf and dumb to many things around us. (My language, not theirs.)

Look for something and you’re likely to see it.

Make up your mind about something, and you’ll start to see supporting evidence for your position all around you.

But your ability to see beyond what you’re looking for is more limited than you would think.

You might conclude that you should try harder to stay open to experiences that might not fit your mental construct or world view.

But I think there’s a more useful lesson here.

Choose Carefully What You Look For…

And that’s what you’ll see.

Since your mind is already wired to see what you’re looking for, why not make sure you’re looking for the right things in the first place?

What are the things you might look for? That’s a topic for another post, but how about friendly faces, generous people, beauty, optimism, excitement, creativity… and that’s just a start.

Here’s the story of how my eyes were opened to the importance of kindness.

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Count Friendly Faces and Watch What Happens

Try this little experiment:

Since you’re likely to see what you look for, the next time you go to the grocery store or anywhere you’ll see lots of people, count the people you judge to have friendly faces. Then think about how different your experience would,ve been had you looked for unfriendly faces instead. They’re both there. But what you choose to see is up to you.

To help me compose a related post, tell me what sorts of things you’d like to look for and see more of in your world. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

  • Laura Amerman, CFRE

    I’d like to see kindness, generosity and love. Easy, right? 🙂

  • lhebner

    I’d like to see more abundance, generosity, and kindness.

  • akihlstedt

    I love the lists you’ve suggested Leah and Laura. Particularly kindness. I’ve got a good story about kindness that’ll serve as the basis for a post soon. Many thx for sharing your thoughts.

  • loriljacobwith

    Love this post, Andrea! I use this concept when coaching nonprofit organizations. I often suggest they look for the people who are “passionate” about their mission, “hungry” to learn more, and “inspired” by making a difference.

    It’s amazing what happens to their fundraising when they do this.

    • akihlstedt

      What a wonderful application of this concept, Lori. So may organizations are just looking for people who are simply willing to fill their board seat. Looking for people who are “passionate, hungry and inspired” totally changes the opportunity and, over time, reshapes the board and the organization. Thx so much for sharing this.