Your Reticular Activating System and a Tranquilizer Gun

One morning, my husband and I slept in a bit, because the day before had been so jam-packed with preparations for an event we were conducting.

Still tired, rather than rolling out of bed, we both just grabbed our laptops and got back to work in our pajamas: I kept preparing files for the printer, and Trevan continued to troubleshoot some bugs in our online systems.

Pretty soon, our daughters Bethany (7) and Sarah (4) wanted to come in, so we invited them to use the master bath where they could be near us and play with their toys in the water.

As they played, their giggles grew louder and their role-playing became more melodramatic until finally my husband had to say, “Hey girls, I realize this this is a play area for you, but it’s a work area for us. We need you to settle down!”

Bethany obediently responded with, “O-kaay.”

Sarah’s response was a bit more authentic. She explained, “But we’re having a lot of fun…”

We chuckled to ourselves and got back to task. Sarah has always been so incredibly quotable.

Time flew. Before we knew it, the girls had been in the water for more than two hours, singing, giggling, and playing with their toys. Again the volume became too much, and this time it was me who said, “Okay girls, time to get out!”

So Bethany got out of the water and went downstairs. Lingering behind, Sarah finally said, “Mom, could I just please stay a little longer?”

I said, “Well, you’re being really quiet now… so, okay, just a little longer.”

Pretty soon I could hear Sarah singing to herself and role-playing independently with her toys. It was so sweet, hearing her talk about princesses and mommies and singing away. It didn’t bother me – I hardly noticed it. I was able to keep working on my files and sort of enjoyed the cute little munchkin voice in the background.

Then, apparently exasperated beyond what he could tolerate, my husband suddenly exclaimed, “Argh! I need a tranquilizer gun!”

Stunned by his comment, I turned my head and glared at him, wide eyed. After a long pause, and assuming he was just trying to be funny with a really bad joke, (and to make my point without chastising him too bluntly) I matched his comment with these equally tasteless words: “Don’t… you think… we would need to… at least… drain the water… first??”

He looked at me confused, and then finally the lights went on. He insisted with just as much shock in his voice, “I was talking about the dogs!”

Dogs? What dogs?

That’s when I finally noticed them. There were quite a few still barking incessantly outside our back window, and he had had it. He had been trying so hard to keep from losing his train of thought while solving a really tough dilemma, so cracking a joke about a tranquilizer gun was his best attempt at channeling his frustration energy into humor.

What he didn’t realize was that his comment was actually funnier than he intended. Once he realized how it sounded to me, we both erupted into laughter and continued to laugh out loud whenever we thought about it.

Isn’t it interesting… how our minds had been focused on our work, and subconsciously, I was enjoying the playful sounds of a 4 year-old in the background, while my husband was becoming increasingly annoyed by the barking of the dogs in the background?

Same environment, two completely different experiences.

When your brain hones in on certain data input from your environment instead of some other kind of available data, that’s a function of your brain’s Reticular Activating System. The “RAS” draws from past experiences, calculates the amount and intensity of emotion that you have added to those experiences, and sees to it that you notice the elements in your environment that correspond to those dominant thoughts and feelings.

The point of this story is that there is always more going on in your environment than you are noticing. When you’ve set your goals properly (according to the principles of success), your Reticular Activating System becomes a great friend.

It goes to work for you, helping you notice and pay attention to the resources you need to be able to accomplish your goal.

The resources you need are already in your immediate surroundings; your Reticular Activating System helps you recognize them.

Sadly, those resources can remain unnoticed your whole life (completely within reach, but never utilized) when you don’t set and carry out your goals properly.

That’s why I do what I do. That’s why I teach.

So, don’t just stop with this article, keep reading all the tips and tools I’ve created for you, so that the gaps in your understanding can be filled, and you can come away ready to change your life, equipped with confidence, and empowered to discover and implement every next genius idea you’ll ever need.

If you’ve already read The Jackrabbit Factor, then it’s time to join me in the Mindset Mastery course. Learn more about it at or watch this free video.

Related: Shoes, a Ring, Seashells, and $5000

Leslie Householder

8 Responses

  1. I enjoyed that story and examples encompassing your family and color which illustrated the story leaving nice photos along the way.
    Every good wish,


  2. Now this makes sense to me. Some of the ” Law of Attraction” teachings are just too way out for my liking. I have no doubt that “the dominating thoughts of my mind will eventually seek expression through some practical means of attaining the object back of it”. But just not so sure about this “Universe” stuff.

  3. A great story, Leslie.

    It made me think about how we sometimes let the important things in our lives – like our family or our marriage – become part of the background “noise” that we have to “cope” with in our busy lives, rather than allowing them to occupy their proper place in our lives.

  4. I loved the story. I taught about the Reticular Activating System as part of a college success class a few years ago – what a great example of how it works. Thanks

  5. Thank you for explaining the theory of RAS, it is helpful to learn about this system each of us has and knowing about it we can better understand how it is that what we think about we bring about.

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