Leaky Perception

This weekend, as I exercised, I watched a TED talk on perception and there are so many things I loved about it that I don’t even know where to start.

The first thing that struck me as “good to remember” is a little similar to the bit I wrote about choice. He talked about how having control makes such a difference. More importantly, feeling like you have no say in how things work out is really really bad for humans. So it’s important that we think and reframe a situation where we feel like we’re in control of it. Like it was a choice.

I had this experience quite a few years ago with someone I was close to. I felt like this person wasn’t behaving the way I wanted her to. After a lot of struggle and frustration (and anger towards her) I realized one day that she was just being who she was all along. I had unrealistic expectations of who she could be and if I wanted to continue to have her in my life, I was going to have to reframe my point of view. Suddenly, it felt so much easier to deal with the same problem because I felt like I was actively making a choice to have this person in my life despite her “faults.” The reigns were in my hand. And it, literally, changed our relationship in a fundamental way.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about this since the talk. About how I should work on areas of frustration in my life and see if I can change my point of view so I feel more in control and not like it’s happening “to me.” I think this is one of the biggest keys to feeling more content in life.

The other part of the talk that really resonated with me was how perception and reality are really intertwined and how our perception of something is sometimes even more powerful than the reality of it. This course I took a long time ago talked a lot about how facts happen and then we create stories around it. And the stories are never true because with stories there’s no “true or untrue” they are just made up. Facts are facts and everything else is a story. That’s how it is with perception. The perceptions of the events in our lives (the people in our lives) are what shape our stories about them. And then we feed those stories so they get bigger and deeper, until we can’t even see the facts anymore.

Our perception becomes the truth.

Since perception is leaky and tends to affect the way we live in the world, I think it’s really worth working on changing my perception on the things that I struggle with. Things that I have negative stories around.

Had you told me in 2009 that I could run almost 3 miles a day, I would have laughed at you. My story was that I had never exercised and couldn’t run a block. My story was that it was too late. My story was that if I had to lose weight, the only option for me was dieting. I had a huge story around this. But seeing Donna and then Cathy do it changed my perception. I don’t know why that did it and other examples hadn’t done it but I do know that my perception is what changed first. It suddenly felt doable. And once it felt doable, I was willing to give it a try. And once I tried it, I was able to do it. And once I saw how much I could do, my perception of myself changed. And then I did it. I lost the weight almost totally due to exercise. The weight I’d been carrying around since 1993. 20 years of weight.

My perception changed my reality.

So it worked in what I considered to be the most unlikely part of my life. I could have believed many many other things before I believed I would be the kind of person who runs daily. And I know that if it worked for that, it can work for anything. Truly. Anything.

So my goal is to make a list of the challenging areas of my life, the negative stories I have, the repeated frustrating conversations in my head and start tackling them. See if I can change my point of view. See if I can take charge. See if I can start by changing my perception.

And then just let it leak into my reality.

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