A friend told me this amazing story: attendees at a seminar are shown a video of two people playing catch. They’re told just to focus on counting the number of times each person catches the ball.
In the middle of the clip, a gorilla walks into the frame and waves at the camera. When the clip ends, attendees are asked what they thought of the gorilla. Every single person is positive there was no gorilla, and when they look at the clip again, they swear they’re looking at a different video.
Here’s what happened: since the attendees were told to focus on the ball and the players, that’s exactly what they did, to the exclusion of all else, even a hairy gorilla waving right at them.
How is this even possible?
It’s our brains’ built-in wiring. We are wired to focus in on what matters so we don’t go crazy trying to absorb every single detail of everything we see. And so to keep things simple, our brains focus on what we’re looking for, what’s important to us.
In other words, what we focus on is what we see because it’s what we’re looking for. The attendees’ brains were focused on counting, so that’s what they did.
That’s all they did.
Gratitude and optimism
Have you ever been around someone who’s impossible to impress? Maybe they’ve done it all, seen it all, been everywhere. Gratitude is like a weird idea to them. Whether it’s a brand new Mediterranean fusion café, an amazing pair of shoes, a great new person, or a slam-dunk at work, they think it’s all kind of just meh.
Take a second to picture someone you know who’s like this: are they positive? Bright, open, receptive, energized? Excited about the future?
In other words, are they grateful for what they have and optimistic about their dreams?
Maybe, but there’s a pretty good chance the answers are “kinda,” “no,” “a little,” and “not really.”
And the reason is that gratitude and optimism — hope in a more positive, dream-realized future — are closely tied. Because just like the people who missed the gorilla, what we focus on is what we see. Focus on what we’re grateful for, and we’ll see more to be grateful for. And that vision will inspire and energize us to go after dreams that create more of the same for ourselves and the people we love.
Grateful thoughts help us feel happy about what we have instead of crummy about what we don’t have yet but really want.
Grateful thoughts also give us fresh perspective by raising our awareness of the abundance of friendship, support, opportunity, and healthy challenge in our lives. Like the friend whose advice smoothed over a tough situation in our lives. A job with really good people or great vacation benefits. Sunday morning reading the paper, eating warm muffins and drinking amazing coffee with someone we love.
Beautiful someone, this is how gratitude is a miracle-magnet that adds serious zoom to dream-seeking.
When we harness this incredible power by deciding what we will—and won’t—concentrate on, gratitude will not only lift our whole outlook about the future, but day by day, step by step, it will help us build a dream come true.