I am excited to introduce you to Dr. Kari Miller, ADHD coach and educational therapist, who is one of the 2015 ADHD Awareness Book Project contributors. She is one of our Featured Contributors and Guest Bloggers at CoachingforADHD.com. Dr. Kari will be sharing more tips and stories in the October release of Wacky Ways to Succeed with ADHD.

Double Balloon Head

Maybe you’re reading this because the title “caught your eye”!  Actually it wasn’t your eye that got caught – it was your Reticular Activating System (or RAS for short).

Humans have a sort of “Beat Cop” in their brains – the RAS – a bundle of nerves in the brain stem that controls what you pay attention to.

Learning how to take charge of your RAS will give you tremendous benefits in your ability to focus, pay attention and get more accomplished.  You’ll be able to concentrate, keep going when tasks are difficult, and you’ll feel better about how much you get done!  You’ll be more “present” during conversations and more aware of your surroundings.

The RAS has several crucial jobs.  One of them is to perform a kind of triage function to filter the millions of bits of information it receives and decide which ones to give priority to at any given moment. The RAS tells us to pay attention to things that threaten our survival or things that are closely tied to our goals.

As you can see, the RAS is a big deal in the world of focusing!  To have better focus, you need to take control of your RAS.  Luckily, you have several ways to do that.  One way is to use the “gross and sexy factor” to put your RAS on alert!

I have to “give credit where credit’s due” – one of my educational psychology professors captivated the class one day when she talked about how to get people to pay attention.  She told us, “Never underestimate the gross and sexy factor!”  Wow!  That precise phrase has stuck in my mind for more years than I want to admit!

The reason the exact phrase became stuck in my mind is because she actually used the “gross and sexy factor” to get our attention!  The very words captivated my RAS!  The key to using this technique to improve your attention and concentration skills is to surprise your brain in dramatic and creative ways so it wakes up and pays attention!  The mind ignores things that are “ho-hum” but the brain will “wake up” and pay attention to things that are surprising:  gross, sexy, scary, unique, or impossible.

So how can you use the “gross and sexy factor” to improve your attention and concentration skills in any situation?   For example, let’s see how you could use this to your advantage during a “boring” business phone call.  Say you’re talking on the phone to a business contact and you’re beginning to “zone out.”  One of my clients finds herself in this situation frequently.

My client uses the “gross and sexy factor” to harnesses her creative visualization talents and stimulate her interest enough so that she stays focused on the conversation.  She may imagine the person she is speaking to is wearing a wolf man mask or his nose is bleeding.  She may use the aspect of impossibility to imagine the person’s head floating up off of his shoulders like a balloon, or visualize him shrunk down to the size of a peanut, stretching to reach the phone!

The trick to using this technique is to briefly alert your RAS, giving your brain a “wake up jolt” of mental stimulation, without distracting you from the task.  So, don’t make your visualizations TOO interesting, or you’ll “zone out” for a different reason!

And you’ll want to use different senses than the ones you’re using for the task so you don’t overload or distract yourself.  A conversation, for example, uses the language and hearing centers of the brain, so you’ll want to use other senses, such as visual images, to stay alert.

There are other wily ways to stimulate your RAS!  You can download a copy of my ebook in which I share other cool tools for improving your attention, concentration, and follow-through by visiting my website – it’s my free gift to you.  Final tip:  this weekend when you’re at the local pet adoption picking out your new Komodo dragon for your kids – be sure to keep your hands and feet close to your body!



For the past 30 years Dr. Kari Miller, ADHD coach and board certified educational therapist, has taught and coached adults and young people with ADHD and learning disabilities, helping them make big changes in their lives!  She helps her clients get focused and organized so they can get more done and finish what they start! Learn more at http://adhdclearandfocused.com/.

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