Developing Your Visual Awareness

In order for us to become proficient visual thinkers it’s absolutely paramount that we learn to recognize the patterns that surround us on a daily basis. Within these patterns lie the answers to all our problems and the dilemmas we face while thinking visually. However, to recognize these patterns we must first and foremost train our visual thinking muscle to become better aware of our surrounding environment and circumstances.

Training your visual thinking muscle can take some time. However, the effort you put in will allow you to expand your understanding of your problems and circumstances to such an extent that you will be better able to spot critical patterns that will shape how you think and work through your problems visually.

It’s All About the Eyes

Because we are discussing the subject of visual thinking, I will focus on developing your visual awareness. However, it’s also important to recognize that awareness can be honed through all your sensory organs. In fact, when your awareness comes through more than one sensory organ, you have more information to work with that can help you gain deeper insights into your problems or circumstances.

Throughout the day, most of us feel as though we are conscious and awake. We go about our lives hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling and tasting our environment. It certainly feels as though we’re awake, however little does our conscious brain recognize that what we physically become aware of is actually only a very small fraction of the information we could potentially capture if we took the time to train our awareness muscle.

Let’s for instance look at the eyes. Research has shows that our eyes are exposed to more than 10 million bits of visual data every second. However, our brain only takes-in about 40 bits of that data, and consciously we only become aware of about 16 bits. So out of 10 million bits of data, we only take notice of 16 bits. This just goes to show how much of the world we are completely missing out on. It’s almost as if we’re walking blind.

It’s of course very difficult — if not impossible — to imagine that we could ever become consciously aware of several million bits of data every single second of our day. That would certainly be quite an overwhelming experience. You can however train your visual awareness muscle to boost the amount of data you take-in on a daily basis by becoming a little more like Leonardo Da Vinci. But more about him later. Let’s first take a look at the Reticular Activation System.

The Reticular Activation System

The Reticular Activation System (RAS) is a concept introduced by Anthony Robbins in his book Awaken the Giant Within*. It shouldn’t be confused with the part of the brain known as the Reticular Activating System, however they are related.

The RAS is a filter that is applied to the staggering amount of data that gets picked up by the five senses. This filter works 24/7, and it’s the only thing that keeps us from being overwhelmed by the massive amount of information passing through our sensory organs.

The RAS determines what we consciously decide to give our attention to at any given moment in time — while the remainder of the data gets filtered out and transferred to the unconscious parts of the brain.

The moment you consciously choose to become aware of something specific within your environment, is the moment the RAS goes to work and begins filtering through anything and everything that is associated or connected to your desired intention. As such, you receive data from your environment that can help you solve the problem you are working through more effectively.

What all this really means is that you are consciously choosing the 16+ bits of data you are pulling from the 10 million bits of possibilities within your environment, which means that you are exposing yourself to the right kinds of information that will allow you to solve your problems more effectively.

Become More Like Leonardo da Vinci

One of the best ways to train your RAS to help you become more aware of the right type of data that will assist you to work through your visual problems more effectively, is to become a little more like Leonardo da Vinci.

In today’s day-and-age, we view Leonardo and what he managed to accomplish as an act of genius. However, what we might not realize is that his “genius” is not some kind of mysterious gift that he received the moment he was born. Instead it’s a skill he worked on throughout his life. And the key to his skill lies hidden within his sketchbooks.

Leonardo was a curious man. This curiosity enabled him to become more aware of his circumstances and environment, which led to ingenious ideas and breakthroughs that he outlined within his sketchbooks.

What’s important to understand here is that Leonardo’s curious nature and willingness to capture his thoughts and observations on paper helped him to train his visual awareness muscle. This awareness allowed him to transform his observations into breakthrough concepts and ideas that we marvel at today.

Let’s explore Leonardo’s methods of observation a little more within the next post where we will look the concept of randomness and describe how to sketch your thoughts and observations down on paper like a modern day Leonardo da Vinci. :)


Everything you read here is part of ongoing research and experimentation within the visual thinking arena. The goal is to create a comprehensive framework for visual thinking that encapsulates creativity, problem solving and critical thinking skills. Your comments, ideas and suggestions are most welcome.
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2 Responses to “Developing Your Visual Awareness”

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  1. Donna Stevens says:

    Thank you for this info for in my high school english class im am doing a research project on visual thinking and im hoping to become a visual thinker.

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  1. […] help you with this process, it is recommended that you become a little like Leonardo da Vinci, and begin keeping a sketch/notebook of your random thoughts and observations as you go about your […]



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