You just mopped your kitchen floors. Satisfied, you enjoy the gleam for a moment, then off you go to whatever’s next. You hear the back door slam. The kids are home - great! Until you see the muddy footprints they left all over your just-cleaned floor. You sigh, grab the mop, swab quickly.

Whereupon the dog enters through his doggie-door, dragging half the yard in with him. “Darn it!” Not happy, you clean up again.

No more than a few minutes later, your spouse arrives with “Honey, I’m home!” and a big smile - but all you see is the dirt he/she tracked in: “Can’t you at least wipe your shoes on the mat before you come in the house?! Look at that!” And angrily you grab the mop and have at it once again . . .

It seems all you see over the next few days is dirt! Dirt on your floors, dust bunnies under the couch, smudges on the walls. Dirt, dirt, dirt!

You’ve been hijacked by your RAS (reticular activating system). Your RAS is a group of cells at the base of your brain stem that sorts and evaluates incoming data. It filters out the important stuff from what’s less important so you can function properly.

But here’s the kicker: you determine what’s important. Your RAS simply points your attention towards whatever supports what you’ve decided is important. Dirt where you don’t want it? If you make dirt important, then suddenly you see dirt everywhere! Clean it up and make it an non-issue, you’ll see it at your usual level of awareness - you’re not fond of dirt, but it doesn’t ruin your day.

This New Year, take charge of your RAS. Make deliberate decisions about what you want to make important, and let your RAS bring you evidence to support whatever that is.

So instead of seeing dirt, dirt, dirt - you see happy children running in, excited to share their day. You enjoy their enthusiasm, and the muddy footprints are of no consequence. The dog makes you laugh with his antics as he squirms his way through the doggie door, leaves and twigs in his wake. Sweeping them up takes but a moment, no biggie. You respond to your spouse’s joyous “Honey, I’m home!” with a hug and a kiss, and delight in the good feels that follow. The little bit of dirt your beloved tracked in can wait. Kisses are far more important.

Take charge of your RAS. Your choice: see the dirt? Or feel the love. It’s not more complicated than that.

Author's Bio: 

Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D., is a psychologist, relationship expert, popular speaker in the U.S. and abroad, and author of nine best-selling books. Dr. Nelson focuses on how we can all enjoy happy, fulfilling lives while accomplishing great things in love, at home and at work, as we appreciate ourselves, our world and all others. Visit,