365 Grateful: Noticing What I’m Noticing

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I took myself out for breakfast today. Panera Bread. Because: Asiago bagel. Probably popped into my head because I was taking photos of last night’s Super Moon – the Full “Pink” Moon that in truth had a tinge of pink but when I mastered my photos, looked far more Asiago-Bagel colored. Anyway.

As I’m leaving Panera, I climb into my car, back out carefully (new car; no dings!), and spy, on my way out of the parking lot, no fewer than five dark red vehicles – one truck, two SUVs, and two cars. And there were only about seven vehicles in the lot altogether, not that I could tell you their colors.

Why does this matter? Because my car, which I bought two weeks ago, is a brilliantly beautiful Crimson. And I’ve noticed that what I see – correction: what I NOTICE – on the roads and in parking lots and all around me since I drove off the lot with my Honda Insight are red vehicles. Others don’t stick in my head or cause me to look.

It made me think of how when you take a hankering to something specific, that is what you notice most. Right now, for me, it’s a red car. Of course, that sent my mind off on a quest for other examples, like the time I spent a year consciously noticing and capturing what I was grateful for each day. Within a month or so, it had deepened my noticing skills. And by the end of the year, it had changed my whole being.

I don’t expect the red car thing to be quite so life-changing.

I find the whole thing to be quite fascinating, so I dug into it a bit. It’s an example of the Frequency Illusion, also known as the Baader–Meinhof phenomenon, and it’s made up of two cognitive biases:

  • Selective Attention Bias, where once we’re made aware of something (for example, we notice something for the first time), we then notice it all around us after that; and
  • Confirmation Bias, where we subconsciously look for whatever supports our hypotheses while ignoring anything that seems counter to our beliefs (red cars are better than any other color).

So here’s the thing. I find it fascinating to notice this with my new red car and my new red car noticing filter, but if I didn’t notice what was happening, I don’t think it would be a good thing. When I don’t “notice” what I notice nor think about why I “noticed” what I noticed, I find it easy to just make decisions or snap judgments based on that frequency illusion. And when I simply don’t bother to question my eyes or my thinking or, well, my “noticing,” my world view narrows and my reality constricts.

After all, it’s a human trait to notice what we like and to ignore what we don’t like. To believe what we hear without questioning or, at the very least, without listening to counter arguments and information.

Sure, I have a beautiful crimson car, but almost any color would have worked (except for purple or lime green, perhaps). Still, now that I own a crimson car I notice them all the time! Do I think crimson cars are the best and worthiest cars to buy? Nope.

I am, however, a huge fan of noticing, courtesy of the Modern Day Muse, AHA-Phrodite, who’s all about noticing things as a generator for creativity. It works, too, because this blog post grew out of my channeling AHA-Phrodite.*

As American physicist Richard Feynman said, the first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.

*AHA-Phrodite is one of nine muses (and a bodyguard) from the book, “Nine Modern Day Muses (and a Bodyguard,” by Creativity Guru Jill Badonsky, who developed the Kaizen-Muse Creativity programs. As a certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach, I continue to learn every day how these muse-fueled principles really work in my life, as well as my clients. Drop me an email if you’re interested. AHA-Phrodite (and the others) and I would be happy to work with you.

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