The Spotlight Effect shows us one of the greatest limitations of our own psychology.
Imagine being in an office building with the power out. It’s pitch black - so dark you can’t see your hand in front of your face. You fumble around and find a flashlight that you turn on and start looking around. You now can see a small circle in front of you, but the rest of the building is still dark and you have no idea who is there and what is going on.
This is our conscious awareness. Like the flashlight, our consciousness can illuminate a small part of our awareness. Somewhere between one and five percent of our mental activity is visible at any given time. The rest is all dark.
That's right. 95-99% of our mental processes are always in the dark. But it really SEEMS like we are more aware, doesn’t it?
That's what the spotlight effect is. What we perceive seems to be all that exists. Yet this is far from the truth.
Have you ever driven home from work only to realize you remember little to none of the drive? Driving is an incredibly complex and dangerous activity that you can do with little to no conscious awareness.
“Sure,” you might be saying, “but the really important stuff is conscious, right?”
Most of what goes into a decision, even an important one, is completely unconscious. Our body creates a physical feeling that our unconscious mind interprets based on biases and heuristics from past experiences.
When we decide to, say, go on a second date. The decision is not a conscious decision. Our body sends us signals like butterflies in the stomach, flushing of the cheeks, and a little bit of adrenaline-based sweat.
We feel excited to see the person again. We might say “Oh, they are smart and good looking,” but it was really the bodily feeling that made the decision for us. We come up with rationalizations and we convince ourselves we make decisions based on facts, but that is just not true! All of the work was done by the subconscious mind.
Research has shown over and over again that we come up with explanations for our behavior AFTER the fact. This means when asked “why” we did something, we are almost always wrong.
If you find yourself struggling with a problem repeatedly, you likely need to revisit your subconscious tendencies. Finding and bringing your attention to these patterns is a difficult process, but the result can be transformative.
Move Mountains can help you by finding ways to bring attention to these patterns and allow you to modify the way you react to them. We begin by finding how these patterns show up both physically AND mentally. Often the physical reaction is more important and easier to notice.
A strong physical reaction to, say, giving up control, might be making the act of delegating a never-ending battle. In this case, you will need to find the moment where your stomach clenches or your arms cover you protectively. It is these innate and instinctual patterns that cause a behavior, not the logic behind your decision. You can take a few breaths to relax or actively open up your body posture to retrain your mind. Soon giving up control won’t feel so uncomfortable.
There are many ways in which biases and learned patterns of behavior can be holding you back without your knowledge. Check out our Blindspot program to find out more!