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Do You See What I See?

Did you hear the one about the guy who was involved in an accident at a busy intersection? Plenty of people witnessed the crash, but the stories they told the police were radically different. Some said the guy had the green light while others claimed he ran a red. All agreed both cars were badly damaged.

How about the way people are looking at our country's financial situation and coming to vastly dissimilar conclusions? They're all examining the same data, so why do they see it differently? Even trained observers have diverse opinions of what happened. How many times have you seen sports officials make different calls on the same play? They both saw the same thing, or did they?

Henry David Thoreau said, "The question is not what you look at, but what you see." Looking is pointing your eyes in some direction and gazing that way. Seeing requires processing what you're looking at and distinguishing what you observe. We seldom see every detail when we look around us and what we do see is filtered by our mind as it processes the information.

Seeing what matters as we're riding down the road might make the difference between life and death. You could say that making out the important things is more vital than seeing everything, but how do we know we've seen the most critical details if we haven't observed it all? One of the challenges is the plethora of information begging for our attention as we scoot along the highway.

There is often so much stuff in our field of view that it can be easy to be distracted by it. When our attention is split between multiple sources, our ability to determine what is most important and to decide what to do about it is dependent on our brain's ability to process information quickly and accurately. As we age our ability to process visual information declines making it more challenging to see the important things.

If our attention is diverted by a left turning car as we approach an intersection, we might not notice the vehicle isn't slowing as it is coming from our right. Or if our expectation is that the car signaling to turn will wait until we pass, we might miss the steering wheel move or the wheels begin to roll.

Did we notice the driver dialing the cell phone or the parent dealing with children as they drive? Did we see and were we ready when one of the boxes sliding around in the back of the pickup fell onto the asphalt? Were we expecting the person checking out the street signs to suddenly stop for traffic so they could turn left?

It is important to gather all the details of the situation to determine the most critical issues we face. Looking at the entire picture is not enough; we need to really see what's happening. We must keep a big picture mindset as we focus on the particular things that can hurt us. As Thoreau said, "The question is not what you look at, but what you see."

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!