Have you ever stopped to really consider how you create your experience of your world? It’s exciting to do so, because when we fully understand how we create our experience, this awareness allows us to make better decisions: to implement better thinking and communication strategies and in doing so – to create a more positive, productive approach to generate new levels of success.
Simply put, we experience the world directly through our senses. That is we see, hear, smell, touch, and/or taste the experience and environment around us. That information is instantly fed through our unique filters which colour or shape the meaning we give it. Our unique filters include our values and cultural norms, our expectations, our past experiences and associated beliefs, and our personalities. The raw, sensory data is passed through these filters and from this we create a map of the situation which influences our feelings and thoughts, and elicits a response so we can navigate the experience.
The challenge is that this happens instantaneously and unconsciously; and because it happens so quickly it feels like the way we ‘see’ or experience that situation IS that situation. We forget that our map is nothing more than our best interpretation or map of the situation at the time, AND that others may be experiencing it quite differently. What we don’t know, until we stop to challenge our thinking, is whether our map is aiding us, or creating problems such as frustration, failure or conflict.
Using a flawed, incomplete or inappropriate map can lead us to black/white or right/wrong judgments which often result in conflict and can leave us and the others around us unhappy, demoralised and disenchanted. We tend to trust our perceptions/map of situations because our maps have worked for us in the past in situations which we have implicitly judged as similar; so we assume they apply again.
But consider this – while you may have used a measuring tape many, many times in your life to get an accurate measure, you wouldn’t look at a measuring tape through a magnifying glass because it would distort your perception of how big it is/seems. The magnifying glass – while a useful tool in some scenarios, is not always going to give us the same result. More focus on one area distorts our view so we need to check what maps/tools we use to ensure our success.
So – how do we avoid the pitfalls of automatic assumptions that can lead to despair, demoralisation and conflict? Simply by recognising that in any given situation it is your thinking or interpretation of it that is creating your experience. So, if that thinking is not working for you, here are two questions you can ask yourself to check if your map is aiding you in successfully navigating the situation:
- How does this seem different if I personalise/depersonalise this?
- In what way or context could this outcome/situation be a success?
We challenge our perception by asking powerful questions and when the insights we gain open up new paths and options. So next time you find yourself feeling demoralised by a situation or outcome, try the two questions above and notice what new ways of thinking and interpreting you discover and how that makes you feel.
Have a positive, productive week and stay tuned for part 2 of this series: how to embrace the power of living in the moment so the past doesn’t hold you back and the future doesn’t overshadow your journey right now.