“Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” Leonardo da Vinci

You see what you are aware of.

Baader-Meinhof, aka the frequency illusion, is a phenomenon when things you are aware of, things you notice or hear suddenly constantly appear. For example, you might buy a new car and suddenly you see that car all over the road or you receive a new diagnosis and suddenly numerous people seem to have that same condition.  Is this coincidence? The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon says it is not. Rather, what we are aware of is what we notice and pay attention to. You simply become more alert and tuned into the car, the health condition, etc. That is why it is a “frequency illusion” (a term coined by Stanford linguistics professor Arnold Zwicky in 2005).  Professor Zwicky also noted a cousin to frequency illusion which is “the belief that things YOU have noticed only recently are in fact recent.”  This happens because our brains practice selective attention.  We are looking for things that recently had our attention and therefore notice them. What we look for, we find. Additionally, neuroscience has studied “confirmation bias” which gives us the illusion we are seeing a pattern that supports what we perceive as a forming perspective. This illusion really confuses coincidence with correlation and correlation with causality. These are great topics studied by neuroscience, philosophy, and psychology to help us think and act better.

Another challenge for us as humans is we tend to ride on old learning and assume it is still relevant even though the world is constantly changing and advancing. Given the information above we can feel that the information we are working with is perfectly relevant as we notice others in the same boat (like a retired person still using a flip phone noticing numerous friends with flip phones validating their comfort and “normalness” that “lots of people still use flip phones.”  The challenge is this: What we know is not always relevant or the most recent or accurate data. In contrast, the more we learn and increase our knowledge, the more we realize what we DON’T know and now can learn it versus feeling like “we know.” Confirmation bias and “frequency illusion” can convince us that what we know on a topic is plenty and sufficiently covered).

What is important to you about all of this is the power of PRESENCE, NOTICING and AWARENESS.

When we allow ourselves time to slow down and practice mindfulness, we increase our muscles that allow for awareness and presence. This is important to support noticing, learning, and strong decision-making.

People who do not do this miss thing and have greater bias, old assumptions, and illusions that feel confirmed.

When we allow ourselves to practice mindfulness and awareness, we can:

  • See what is happening and what others might be missing 
  • See emerging signals, things that seem “invisible”
  • See things in new ways, from new perspectives, and from other’s eyes
  • See around corners (seeing, perceiving, knowing, and doing) and therefore make decisions faster

LEARN HOW TO SEE by managing your attention. A positive mind finds opportunity in everything, a negative mind finds fault in everything.

Be curious.  Be growth-minded. Be flexible. Create margin.

  • Look inward (journal, work with a coach/therapist, be self-reflective)
  • Look back in time (track, analyze and note daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, decades, etc.)
  • Look forward in time (read, study, explore and discuss trends, patterns, and changes)
  • Look outward and learn from others’ lenses to see their perspectives, especially those who think and see the world differently than you (network, have convos, diversify your connections, etc.)

For years, the concept of the VUCA world has been our reality (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous).  Our world is changing and evolving quickly. We are in a season of high innovation which creates speed in culture, technology, business, and more.  As a result, we must sharpen our awareness.  To do this, we need to deepen our mindfulness and presence.  This means while it feels there is less time for margin, we need more margin for rest, play, re-reading, thinking, studying, and reflection. This allows us the mind to enhance what we are doing by noticing what is working or not working, innovating, adapting, and trying new things to adapt in new ways.

Highly effective leaders know creating margin to increase awareness is the key to seeing what they need to see so they can adjust, adapt, and lead to their highest potential!