And how to focus your lens to get what you want.
“Perception is Reality” Lee Atwater
What you get out of life comes down to your perception.
What you see.
How it makes you feel.
And what you are able to make happen, with what you are given.
The problem is: you can only succeed with the opportunities you see.
And most opportunities will pass you by.
Not because you are not capable of seizing them. Or because you are less deserving of achieving them than other people.
You’re not seeing most opportunities, because you do not perceive them.
You filter them out of your reality.
The truth is, while there is one ongoing reality…every one of us experiences a different version of it.
Two people can experience the same thing, but both will perceive the same situation very differently.
Because while there is one reality, which we all experience in each passing moment, the way we all perceive and therefore experience it could not be more different. Or more flawed, skewed, and altered.
How you personally filter reality, determines what opportunity you see. How confident you feel about your abilities to seize opportunities. Which inevitably results in the life you lead and what you are capable of.
What you see, you create.
However, false, in perspective, or not.
So, how do we perceive reality?
And how can you alter our perception of it, in order to meet reality more powerfully where it is at?
There is an old folktale about six sages and an elephant.
The six old sages all enter a room with an elephant. Each surrounding the elephant, and perceiving it from six different angles. With a wall between each sage, narrowing their personal view of the elephant.
Each sage tells the others, in order what they perceive.
A tubular creature, with a hair poof at its end…
A creature that stands atop heavy stones…
A creature with hundreds with floppy ears and two large, piercing tusks…
And so on.
They all continue to share their perception of what they perceive — each being 100% right — but each still disagreeing with the rest.
Each perceiving the same reality, but in separate, incomplete ways.
The old men disagree and argue, and none are able to perceive the elephant as it is.
I love this story, because it aptly describes a challenge all people face, that most seldom think about.
And that challenge is this:
In each moment, you perceive about 11 million bits of data per second. Taken in through your senses, which your brain then makes sense of.
The problem with this, is that 11 million bits is far too much data for your conscious mind to comprehend.
So, what your mind does, instantaneously after perceiving all this data…
Is apply a set of filters to the 11 million bits of data coming in and compresses it into about only 50 bits of data per second.
Reducing 11 million bits of data down to just 50 bits.
50 bits of what your brain assumes to be the most useful information.
50 bits based on reality—representing an extraordinary small sliver of reality…
But not being reality.
And it’s at this point that success or failure is determined. Whether struggle and striving will follow, or ease and effortlessness. It’s in how you filter reality, and what you discard, and what you select as the most useful 50 bits per second….
That determines everything else.
From what you think, how you feel, to how well you are able to perform.
“We can only see what our brain’s filter will let through.” Eben Alexander, American Neurosurgeon
There are several filters your brain goes through, in order to process this information and reduce it to its most useful bits.
From perceiving and amplifying perceptions of threats or impending threatening situations…
To using tools like generalizations, stereotypes and assumptions to block incoming information into useful chunks, which also help more rapidly adapt to what is happening now, and also help predict what is going to happen next.
Your brain does this every second you are conscious.
Which presents the problem that your ‘narrow view’ of reality, which consists of just 50 bits, could never be as complete as the 11 million bis it originated from. The same ‘raw reality’ we all experience.
And worse yet, the instant any filters are applied, or assumptions are created, and information is compressed — the truth of raw reality is lost.
So, not only is your perception of reality, reality as you experience it, a skewed and small fractal of the total possibilities. But your brain is incapable of fully consciously comprehending reality in moment to moment basis.
And so, you project into what you perceive.
Losing your ability to connect with reality and therefore thrive.
It’s for this reason that if you are not conscious of your biases, how you’re filtering reality, what stories you use to make sense of it, and you neglect to take the deliberate time to gain a high level of self-awareness of all the unconscious processes you use on a second-by-second basis to navigate reality…
You will always question the results you get.
Why you get them.
And what really holds you back from reaching the next, higher level of your personal evolution.
But when you do take the time to raise your level of self-awareness, and become aware of these subconscious processes. You claim the power to change them.
You can direct yourself. Influence yourself.
And connect more powerfully with useful reality.
By meeting reality where it’s at: the place where all meaningful work is done.
“We are more often frightened than hurt, and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.” Seneca
The source of nearly all problems we face, comes from our subconscious beliefs and assumptions we use to ‘fill in the blanks’ of our perception of reality.
In this blank space, hidden amongst the void of our perceptions, expectations, beliefs, generalizations, and judgements…
Are the raw facts of reality.
But to get to them, we have to remove our the flaws in our perception.
The more you are able to connect with raw reality, by stepping out of your own way, and meeting it where it’s at — the more you will be able to get what you want.
And the good news is, reality, or ‘the world’ is often far more forgiving than we assume it is.
The first filter, of many, we use to make sense of reality is our negativity bias, which scans for possible threats, or dangers. In order to keep us alive.
But the downside of this bias, is that in each sliver or reality we perceive, we will pick up the negative facts much easier than the positive ones. And even if there are overall far more positive facts to perceive, we will have a harder time seeing them. And will favor negative perceptions, that we assume will help keep us alive.
The truth is reality is far less scary, than our imaginations of it.
Far more workable than your fears of it.
Far more forgiving, than you are to yourself.
In fact, the distortions in how you perceive reality — the biases conditioning you use to make meaning of it that do not serve you—the smudges on the lens the blur the picture, don’t come from outside you.
They come from within you.
From your subconscious mind.
Which is why, paradoxically, the key to connecting more powerfully with reality, and becoming more aware of opportunity, others, and showing up as best you can, doesn’t come from focusing on reality.
Or even being more productive, or even more present.
It comes from raising your own level of self-awareness.
By focusing your lens.
And changing your perception of reality, by successfully changing yourself.
“Look and think before opening the shutter. The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera.” Yousuf Karsh
When you realize that you are the filter and that the version of reality you experience, combines all the distortions of your subconscious mind…
That this is the reason why the patterns in your life seem to endlessly repeat themselves, even though the situations and the people in them are changing.
And that all the smudges in the lens that distort your perception, are the products of you conditioning, biases, and previous experience…
You become very free.
Because you can see that what you experience is not in fact, accurate reality. And that beyond you, beyond the filters of your own perception is a wider, more wonderful reality.
A reality, which is inherently impossible for your mind to every fully comprehend and know in its completion…
But a reality that you are intrinsically linked to.
Which influences you.
And that you can influence, too.
While your perception of reality is flawed and thoroughly riddled with distortions—it’s not all smoke and mirrors.
Your link to changing reality, is through changing yourself.
By looking more within, and raising your level of self-awareness, you are more able to perceive what is outside you.
What you perceive to be possible and if it is possible for you.
How you feel about it.
And what you’re going to do about it.
When it comes down to it, you have 50 bits a second.
Same as everyone else.
Make them count.
By raising your level of self-awareness and getting clear on what’s going on inside you—within the subconscious, so you can better focus your lens.
Connect more powerfully with yourself, others and raw reality itself.
Knowing you can never fully understand it.
But you can direct it.
And even small increases in self-awareness, can yield dramatic increases in all other areas of your life.
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