There is a famous saying, nothing in life has a meaning except the meaning we give it. Our brains have this amazing capacity to analyze what we see and churn out a meaning that makes sense only to us. We are equipped with all the beautiful senses of touch, see, smell, taste, and hear what we have access to but interestingly, we can only use these senses through our internal filters and our previous knowledge. We all see the same things and yet we do not all see the same things. Our interpretation of the world around us is unique and based on our upbringing, our life experiences, and our conditioning. We just do not see the world through our eyes, but through everything, we already know and understand. Hence, there is no such thing as a reality but only the way we perceive it.
When I moved to Australia 5 years ago, I noticed how my views differed greatly from people who had been living here for since long. Coming from Karachi, I was blown away by the amazing transportation system the beautiful city of Melbourne had to offer. Yet, I would hear my friend commenting at work about the trains getting delayed, the repair-works, and the capacity. Similarly, my friend here would be heading to the beach to get that sought-after tan on a sunny day and I would do my best to avoid the sun worrying about my complexion. The meaning my friend and I gave to a tanned complexion differed because of the environments we grew up in and the meaning we associated with “looking beautiful”. The same tan would have her flaunting her skin and make me get locked in my house trying all kinds of treatments to get my complexion back.
Why would we think so differently? When we are growing up, our brain is processing vast amounts of information based on the incidences happening in our lives. Our belief system and our understanding of the world is constantly evolving. When an incidence occurs, our brain reaches out for previously stored information to interpret that new occurrence. It uses filters such as values, beliefs, culture well as our language to arrive at a conclusion that gives meaning to that event. We only filter in what we feel is consistent with our world view and is useful to our view of the world. Armed with all this information, we start thinking about our response and our behavior to this incidence. For example, a Tibetan monk greets other people by sticking his tongue out. What does it mean to stick your tongue out in your culture? Would you interpret this gesture as a sign of greeting or a sign of offense? How would you interpret someone’s frown? Is it that they are upset with you or it is because they are lost in their own thoughts? Your interpretation will depend on your state of mind at the time and/or your previous knowledge of this gesture/expression.
We are good at deleting, distorting, and generalizing information that contradicts our filters to arrive at a response that seems more agreeable to how we think. Someone could appear to be loving to us, but if we are angry at them, we may choose to delete that gesture by ignoring it completely or distort it to mean that they might want something from us. Another example of how we distort could be an experience of someone betraying our trust and we end up doubting all our relationships and have trouble trusting anyone. Do you tend to have a connection of beauty with goodness? Does your mind distort your perception of a beautiful person as a person with many qualities and an ugly person with not so many? In America, there have been massive protests on “Black lives matter” challenging the perception that a black person means trouble. We also love generalizations. Generalizations are normally epic because they help us greatly in how we process world information. However, there can be a flip side to generalized thinking. If one attempt did not work out, do we generalize it to mean the rest of the attempts would not work out? We love using the words always and never in our vocabulary to define our opinions. If someone has refused you something, what are the chances you may say, “You always do this to me” to generalize this incidence?
Bruce Lipton in his book The Biology of Belief says, “Your beliefs act like filters on a camera, changing how you see the world. And your biology adapts to those beliefs. When we truly recognize that our beliefs are that powerful, we hold the key to freedom.” We rely heavily on our beliefs to analyze our current situations. But what if, by doing that, we were narrowing down our thinking and not letting us be open to possibilities? A previous failure does not mean we would fail again, and yet, it would cause us to heavily overthink our next move and our ability to perform. We must know that we have the power to construct our world the way we choose to construct it. This opens our minds up to new ways of thinking. It helps us be more aware of ourselves and be more curious about the world around us. We must condition ourselves to ask more questions and ponder over things from different perspectives. A failure for one person can mean he will be un-successful forever and for another, it can be interpreted as a valuable lesson learned in moving towards success.
Remember, wherever focus goes, energy flows. Where we choose to focus is where our meaning comes from. If we focus on giving our world positive meanings, our brains would store these meanings and that is what it will gift you when you encounter a new challenge or situation. Thus, re-enforcing more meaningful and positive experiences. This, in turn, helps us transform our world for a better, more fulfilled, and happy life.
About the Author:
Kim Ali is a Boss Woman, a life coach, and loves helping people maximize their ability to shine through in their lives. She has been doing this for over a decade with increasing passion and enthusiasm with each passing day. Kim worked as country head of HR for a large multinational in Pakistan and then as a career coach for a large telecommunication company in Australia. She had very successful corporate experiences and unsuccessful previous business experiences. Both experiences taught her that at the end of the day, it is our mindset that makes or breaks us. She now runs her own life coaching business called “Stellar Coaching” and works as a mindset coach to guide people on how to have successful careers and relationships.