A good friend of mine does remarkable work with people who have had strokes and become disabled. One elderly gentleman she is currently working with has gone from being able to move only his head, to being able to feed himself and to maneuver his wheel chair using his own feet – he can trundle down the hallways of his extended care facility all by himself! Is this not a remarkable accomplishment for an 82 year old man who has not moved any part of his body for over six years?
When I heard this story I assumed the staff in that facility would be over the moon and redoubling their efforts to help him regain full mobility. However, I was wrong.
I was wrong because the facility he is in is not rehabilitative but is rather a care facility with a mandate to keep disabled people comfortable. That’s all. So even though there are physiotherapists on staff, they have not even noticed the fact that this gentleman can now move about on his own steam. It isn’t important to them because improvement is not in their mandate.
While it is interesting to consider how our world would be different if a percentage of people considered “unimproveable” (my new word!) could actually improve, what comes to mind for me is whether in some way, I am not seeing change and improvement around me because I’m not looking for it.
A few years ago, NASA devised a virtual flight simulator with which to train and test commercial airline pilots. As part of an experiment, they placed the image of a full sized passenger jet on the runway where he pilots in their flight simulators were supposed to land. Believe it or not, fully 25% of the pilots did not see the plane and therefore landed right on top of it!
The pilots didn’t see the plane because they didn’t expect to see it. A name has actually been coined for this phenomenon, “inattentive blindness.” The conclusion drawn from the experiment and others like it is that peoples’ perceptual systems are built to see what they’re used to seeing. If there is something in their field of vision which they are not accustomed to seeing, they won’t see it.
As scary as it is to consider this situation as it pertains to your next flight, it is perhaps even more scary to consider what this might mean for us in our daily lives. Do we keep seeing the people close to us in the same way, even if they have changed? Do we keep seeing ourselves in the same way no matter what we do to make changes? Do we walk to work everyday and miss the flowers along the way? Do we miss opportunities which are right in front of us because we don’t expect to see them?
In this age of computers, we have become accustomed to hitting the “refresh” button which instantly brings everything up to date on the screen in front of us. I think it would be very helpful to pretend we have a “refresh” button in daily life too which we could press and see everything with updated eyes!
Do you have a refresh button? Have you pressed it today?