First, published 18 November 2020 in Thrive Global https://thriveglobal.com/stories/theres-always-the-what-happened-and-then-the-story-you-make-up-about-what-happened/?
Shift perception, shift behaviour and therefore your results.
Setting morality aside, there is NO good or bad, right or wrong, without YOU. Your judgement about whether something is good or bad is what makes it so, and that comes down to perception.
How we perceive things and how they impact us comes depends on how disciplined we are around our perception. If you are like most people, the word discipline implies hard work, and it’s usually something someone else imposes on you. The word discipline shares its roots with the word disciple, so it’s something you follow, a practice you adopt because it has specific benefits and, it’s something that you impose (for want of a better word) on yourself.
So, if nothing is inherently good or bad, right or wrong, then what is it? It’s data. And there’s the raw data you receive and then their how you perceive that data. There are different numbers thrown about as to how much information we receive in any given moment, so quoting a number is irrelevant. The point is that if we were to be consciously aware of the data, we would quite literally be overloaded and overwhelmed. As a way of dealing with this, our brain evolved to filter out what is unnecessary and create a system by which what matters to us gets a higher priority; this is the role of the Reticular Activating System, RAS, a short-cut for the brain that perceives patterns to keep us safe.
Your RAS creates short cuts by labelling what it perceives and looking for generalised patterns that conform to that label. The only problem is your experiences, and your RAS is what are writing the code. There is nothing deliberate or conscious about it. It is reactive and somewhat defensive. It is part of what is meant to keep you safe. Unlike a majority of other animals, human beings are born with our wiring ‘incomplete’, meaning we are still model behaviour and be shaped by our environment. In our case, a lot of our programming has been laid down in a moment, in response to hurt. It is the signal from the environment that now, via the RAS, lays down our programming can be entirely at odds with what you want to create in your life.
The primary signal comes from the environment, and if there’s no input from the environment to you, there is NO behaviour. We see this exact situation play out in cells in the body; it takes a signal from the environment to switch on a response in a cell. YOU are the same. Your behaviour will follow your perception. What if your perception is erroneous and you’ve got it completely wrong? What then?
Your life unfolds in a narrative or story.
In this story, you have a protagonist, a hero (probably you), a villain, a scriptwriter and a director, among other roles. The problem is you’ve forgotten that you are writing the script. And, whether you realise it or not you are in complete control of your perceptions, and how you perceive this story; this is once you take responsibility for being the actor, director, hero etc. It takes realising that you are in control and then choosing to write a narrative that is aligned with you.
What you want and the results you want can be at odds with your wiring. Remember, most of your programming was laid down in moments of hurt and distress. The good news is you are not stuck with your programming as our high order thinking allows for us to change and move mountains when we wish to.
How do you rewire and shift old programming? How do you know whether you perceive what is really there or some other alternative version of facts that align with your perspective? You get to the facts and distinguish precisely what happened as distinct from the story you have about what happened. Doing so will allow you to get to the raw data and let the data be data. To help you do that, use your enquiring mind and be like a scientist. Instead of seeking to prove your theory, seek to disprove it. If you can’t, you are either close to or have arrived at the sought after raw data, the what happened and not the story you made up about it, accurately perceiving what is there. Now you are getting close to reality.
This is the discipline, and it is a discipline that applies particularly to the mind and how you use it.
“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly”. Eckhart Tolle
If not, it can be very destructive and it uses you, which is why you want to be disciplined around mind. Without the discipline, you will likely start telling yourself stories!
Human beings are meaning-making machines: There is always an event, and then there’s a story about that event. There are “facts” / “data” and then, your story about the facts/data. They aren’t the same thing; our perception factors.
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