Can’t See For Looking

No doubt you’ve heard, used, or been on the receiving end of this little gem of an axiom.

Despite your best efforts, looking hard for something, you just can’t seem to see it. Often, it takes someone else to step in and point it out to you, like you had some kind of blind spot.

A classic example of this blind spot phenomenon played out when I was riding my motorbike recently.

I was travelling in the right hand lane of a dual carriageway, when a woman in a large SUV directly alongside me in the left lane, merged straight into my path. If I’d not been looking for situations just like this every time I ride I’d perhaps be laying in a hospital bed.

Instead, I braked hard and by the time I blew my horn she was already in the spot where I was riding just seconds previously.

What really got me thinking is that I literally saw her turn her head and look, before changing lanes. In fact, I could have sworn she looked right at me and yet still didn’t see me.

It’s one of the most common reasons given by car drivers pulling into the path of motorcyclists – IJDSH or “I just didn’t seem him/her”

So what really happens?

Well in my experience working with people, what takes place is this – our brain filters out what we’re not actually looking for. There’s even a scientific name for it – our reticular activating system. When that lady looked over her shoulder, she didn’t see me because she wasn’t looking for me.

Confused?

Well consider this.

Of all road users, motorcyclists make up less than 15% of the vehicles on the road.

Add to that the fact that the overwhelming majority of car drivers have never ridden a motorcycle and you end up with a ‘blind spot’ when you look for traffic before changing lanes.

Rather than being a physical blind spot it’s actually a mental one.

Your brain literally doesn’t tell you to see motorcycles because you don’t expect them to be there. You’re really only looking for other cars, because that’s what you expect to see.

So when that woman checked over her shoulder and then proceeded to almost run me over, she literally did not see me!

This concept applies across many other areas in your life.

Take marketing and sales for example.

If you don’t know what your ideal customers look like you’ll quite probably never see them, even if they’re visiting your website, walking into your business or standing next to you at a networking function!

Or how about this scenario?

You’re meeting with a prospective client and you tell them the price of the work they’re about to (hopefully) undertake with you.

They fold their arms, turn slightly away from you and check their watch.

If you’d taken the time to learn some basics of body language you might have seen these gestures indicating they’d gone cold at the price.

Even if you knew those principles, unless you were actually looking for signs and hints then you still might have missed them and wondered why you missed yet another quote.

This principle can also be applied more broadly to your results in life.

If you have ever said the phrase, “I just can’t see how this will work” or “I don’t know where we’re going to find our next client” then guess what?

That’s exactly what will happen.

You won’t see it work, you won’t find that next client because you’ve literally told your brain not to.

Sounds crazy right?

Sadly, it’s reality and it happens to all of us, every day.

So try this. For the next 7 days, make a list of the things you want to see and keep it somewhere visible.

  • It could be your ideal client (might need to work out what they look like huh?!);
  • some better food choices (good time to stock the fridge with some fresh veg);
  • loving acts from your spouse (yikes! You might even pay them some attention while you’re at it!)

Whatever it is, write it down and keep a lookout for it.

What you’ve done is tell your brain to see those things…and your chances of doing so will increase dramatically.

Oh, and while you’re at it. Keep an eye out for motorcyclists on the roads. We’ve got families to get home to.