Let’s explore your mindset…
“As you walk into your office and put your things down, you inadvertently push a pencil off the desk and onto the floor. That event, on its own, is insignificant. Your brain, however, might launch into the following conversation:
I lost my pencil. I can’t find it anywhere (filter).
I love that pencil (emotion). I can’t live without that pencil (prediction).
It’s my lucky pencil (label). We’ve had so many successful meetings together (memory).
Without that pencil I’ll fail. My kids won’t have anything to eat (exaggeration).
Someone stole it (assumption). It must be Emily (assumption).
She’s mean (label).
If I let this happen once, I’ll be the doormat of the office (prediction). Today a pencil, tomorrow my job (exaggeration).
As you sit down to prepare your attack plan, Emily passes by and says, “Hey, you dropped a pencil.”
Excerpt From: Mo Gawdat. “Solve for Happy.”
Do you relate to this anecdote? Isn’t it incredible how quickly we fill the gaps and create stories out of reality?
Lately, I have been fascinated by Mo Gawdat’s ability to explain complex concepts in the simplest ways! That is why I am starting today’s article by sharing one of his explanations. He presents 7 blind spots that interfere with our perception of reality… Due to them, we are often unable to perceive reality exactly as it is!
- Our brain filters the information we receive by focusing our attention on certain things. Where our attention goes, energy flows!
- Our brain makes assumptions about unknown information in order to fill the gaps and make sense of our reality!
- Our brain predicts what it is going to happen in order to fill the biggest gap of all: The future!
- Our brain attaches our emotions to objects, people and moments altering the importance of elements in reality! In the example, the loss of a pencil becomes a big deal because of the emotions attached to it.
- Our brain labels things, as analyzing every situation from scratch would take forever, but generalizing in this way can lead us to miss out on the variety of life!
- Our brain exaggerates situations and events in order to call our attention to what will make us survive!
- We keep our past stored in memories; memories are not the past, they are only what we remember of our perceptions of the past!
In the pencil scenario, we see how the brain looks for potential threats and enemies: In this case, settling on Emily. But the brain is wrong. By trying to protect you, the brain can present the world in front of your eyes as the biggest threat you will ever encounter, and the people in it as adversaries who will harm you or at best dislike you!
Everyone has a different combination of blind spots. This is what gives us each our unique perspective on the World, and also results in us creating stories! The question then, is what story are you telling yourself about your life? Experience by experience, we slowly form our mind-sets. We can set our mind in a million different ways … but generally speaking, we often talk about having a positive mindset, or a negative one.
Are you interpreting the world and your experiences in a positive or a negative way? Our brains tend to go for the negative option as it is closely linked to survival. However, we can learn to perceive events differently. You are never going to see reality in its’ purest form, but by practising self-awareness you can learn to see a colourful spectrum of perspectives!
As a child, I was extremely shy at school… Rather than loving the playground, I perceived it as an uncomfortable space where I could be attacked at anytime. In my mind my peers weren’t new friends to play and have fun with, they were bullies. Or not even that… I was just convinced that they wouldn’t like me or that they would reject me! How was I so sure? ZERO Evidence, my brain had made that convincing story up in order to protect me, as it was scared of the unknown!
Fortunately, years later my shyness slowly receded… and I started perceiving the school environment as a friendlier and more familiar place. However, that wasn’t the end of my story. I became an extrovert; easygoing and open, BUT my mindset was still telling me otherwise, especially while meeting strangers.
Before opening my mouth to start conversation with a stranger I would worry about what they thought of me, and it often it wasn’t positive. My brain continued to create stories based on my insecurities. For example, maybe I would assume and convince myself that a stranger thought my clothes were not cool enough. However, far from being the stranger’s opinion, that was only my chimp’s inner critic demanding me to get ‘cooler clothes’ in order to impress people and avoid rejection. That past story, that past fear was interfering in my present. How? Obviously, if I was convinced that the stranger was mentally attacking me, I would not approach them in the same way than if I had thought ‘That person has such a friendly face, we will get along great!’ (If you want to learn more about the Chimp you can read: ‘Do You Really Know Your Chimp? Your Inner Critic Lives Within You But It is not You’
This mindset often led me to take people’s actions personally. If someone forgot to answer a message or failed to meet one of my expectations, I thought it was because they didn’t like me. In other words, I was still perceiving most people and environments as hostile! However, the whole game changed when someone asked me a key question:
How do you think strangers see you?
This simple question was a turning point because made me aware of the pattern I was in, and enabled me to start questioning my mindset!
The first time I tried to answer, my response was so negative, but the more I thought about it, the more ‘hypothetical’ answers I was able to generate, many of which were not so negative. I will never be able to guess what people think of me but I have slowly adopted a more positive mindset. Now, I show up unapologetically, I don’t take things personally, and I no longer labelling the world as an enemy.
Do you think life happens for you or against you?
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Love and Satisfaction,