By: Laurie Gerber
One morning, it was about 8:30AM on a very cloudy Saturday morning in New York City and I was out for a jog. I came upon a little girl, about three years old, entering an empty playground with her father. She had a funny look on her face as she looked around and it got me wondering …What was she thinking? I came up with several theories:
- Where are all the other kids?
- Wow, this playground is sooooo big.
- Geez, I get this whole place all to myself, yay!
Or, maybe, she was observing the dog across the street from the playground … who knows! But it stuck in my mind as I ran.
Two and a half insights came to me from this experience.
- I have no idea what other people are thinking, even if there is a funny look on their face.
- We have a choice in how we perceive things.
- Who needs music when you’ve got mind chatter?
We shape our lives around perceptions and assumptions that aren’t confirmed by others. Just because you witnessed a situation and perceived something to be true, doesn’t mean it is. When you claim your power to perceive and see a situation, you gain the ability to re-shape your life.
Let’s breakdown some of the most common examples we hear at Handel Group:
1) You think someone is mad at you. Getting a funny look from someone can impact (or ruin) your dating life, friendships, or family relationships, especially if you don’t ask the person what they meant by their funny look. Most of us just assume we know. Just like I had no idea what the little girl was thinking on the playground, you do not know what the people in your life are really thinking or feeling.
Now, you probably want to argue with me that you “know” these people and have for a long time, unlike the little girl who I didn’t know at all. But, here’s something to think about: don’t your thoughts and feelings change all the time? Do you really expect that anyone could ever predict or know your thoughts and feelings? Of course not. So, isn’t it a bit arrogant to think you know what others think and feel? The greatest gift of love is to ask and then listen.
2) You think it’s the other person’s fault. This is a very common misperception among our clients. The antidote is not to just think it’s YOUR fault; I recommend, again, a state of curiosity. Ask yourself, and others who you trust and who have no stake (think: Switzerland-like) in the relationship for their take on the situation, then reflect upon them without drama or feeling bad. Feeling bad is a diversion and is as forbidden as guilt tripping others. Instead, be ready to own up and be held accountable for a possible bratty or chicken-like choice you may have made that caused this issue. Then make a promise to do better next time. And don’t forget to ask the other person involved what their perception was of what happened so you know and understand each other’s perspective.
3) You think online dating sucks and is tough. This is one of the common, negatively life-shaping perceptions we come across. You may like online dating fine, but have a negative theory like “men only want one thing” or some other equally defeating perception. We ask our clients to write out all their theories or perceptions in the areas of life they are not succeeding. When you write them out, they seem sillier; when you shine the light of day on them, they are often easier to let go. The next step is to actively gather evidence to prove the negative theory wrong. For example, by easily finding a great date online, you are disproving your original thought that online dating sucks and is tough. Now, you may not find the love of your life on a dating site, but by having a great online date, at least you’ve proven you can change YOUR mind about things you felt strongly about!
4) You think you can’t make more money than you have been making. Many people feel stuck in the area of money. It’s normal to think that what you already have in your bank account represents what you’ll always have in the future. But that logic is not going to get you anywhere and is a very faulty perception. The future does not have to be determined by the past. If we got away with that kind of thinking, no progress would’ve ever been made.
Your thinking and how you perceive situations is shaping your life; it’s impacting everything around you. You have the choice to change how you perceive any situation. The first step is knowing that you can.
Previously published on www.ellevatenetwork.com.