As long as we are conscious, we are constantly processing tonnes of information. By information, I am not just referring to things we read, listen or process deliberately. Much like any sensor, our senses are constantly gathering information and sending them to our brain. In order to cope with this massive volume of information, the brain has acquired the amazing ability to quickly process these signals as either "normal" or "abnormal" (this relates to homeostasis mentioned in this post). Normal signals are largely disregarded so that we have the (brain) capacity to process those that are deemed abnormal. Oh yes, hopefully, this also addresses the myth that we use only about 10% of our brain.
Due to how we are desensitised to the status quo, it is easy for us to overlook greatness that happens passively or subtly in the background. It doesn't help that with the technological age, the volume of information that we are processing has exploded! While we mastered how to digest content while continuously scrolling through our social media feed (we are all well-trained speed readers now), we have also developed the need for stronger stimulants to pique our interest and attention.
See but didn't read, hear but didn't listen
As we get accustomed to stronger stimulants, we subconsciously disregard common daily occurrences as mundane. Simply put, we take things for granted. In fact, there is a lot of effort being put into getting systems functioning at the status quo. For example, the clean streets here in Singapore is often associated with our Fine system initiated by our government since our independence days. But in fact, the core success of our clean country is not achieved by having policemen lying in ambush with ticketing machines (I have yet to come across anyone who is fined for non-traffic offences) but by amazing efforts put in by our cleaners as well as the community's support (which consists of both citizens and visitors). Yet, since this isn't as interesting or unique as compared to the fun tag of "Singapore being a FINE country", this amazing communal spirit goes generally unnoticed.
This phenomenon of desensitisation relates to topics like why comfort zone grows, digital dementia, or why we at times simply overlook great work and opportunities that are around us. This is why it is so crucial for us to regularly check in with ourselves and recalibrate our senses.
What's to be done differently
In my opinion, it is VERY challenging to achieve a state of constant mindfulness and not be influenced by the bombardment of sensory stimuli in this digital age. Still, I hope that we recognise that we should, as much as possible, do our best to attempt at being aware of and appreciate the greatness that is happening around us (before it is too late).
Here is a list of areas that I personally feel are deserving of more attention and appreciation:
As a leader/manager/employer,
Do not just credit the "fire-fighters" but give equal if not MORE credits for those who managed to perform their job so well that there was no fire to put out
Do not wait for "triggers" (e.g. a complaint, a resignation letter) to express your appreciation. It will be too late by then.
Do not forget to recognise and acknowledge the "okay", "good" and "great" while we praise the "fantastic".
As a worker/employee/student,
Do not disregard your efforts and progress as trivial.
Do not let other's achievements dull your spirits. While there is (always) competition, we can all achieve success in our own ways, at our own pace.
Do not forget to calibrate and measure your progress against your own scale instead of those given to you by people around you and society.
As a human being,
Do not forget to live in the present.
Do not save on words that are kind and lovely. Say more thanks.
Do not take for granted those that are closest to you. Ironically, those closest to us are those whom we have the most assumptions and expectations of.
Don't just listen for bells and whistles! They are not the most sophisticated musical instruments.
It is easy to spot the special, and just as easy to miss each individual's beauty when camouflaged as the norm.
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