As you go through life, how do you process what happens around you? When a situation comes up, how do you perceive them? All of us form our perceptions of life based on our past experiences and our personal view of reality.
I may see someone broken down by the side of the road and think,
“If they would have maintained their car better, they wouldn’t be in this predicament.”
You may drive past that same person and stop to offer assistance because you’re thinking,
“I remember when that happened to me last winter and how hard it was to change a tire all by myself”.
My past experiences in life helped me shape my view of the current situation, just as yours helped to shape yours. Neither one of us is wrong – we just have different realities in which we live.
Our brains are marvels of science. Scientists and doctors to this day cannot fully explain how our brains store and retrieve information. They are unable to explain how thought processes take place -why one person may be a whiz at mathematics, while another person is an expert in foreign languages. Yet we do know that our brains process experiences into concepts, beliefs and opinions. As we see things happening around us, we base our realities and perceptions of those events based on what we know to be true from our past and our personal experiences in life.
When we see a situation occurring, we often form an emotional response to it. We act not because of people or outside events, but on our perception of what is going on at that moment in time. We interpret what our senses are telling us, and our analysis is based on past experiences, values, and ideas.
Emotions are then expressed to others through our tone of voice, our body language, and/or our facial expressions. Think back to how you have reacted when someone who may be dressed shabbily has approached you in a public place. Did you pull back away from them and put up an invisible shield around you as you sensed possible danger, or did your face form a look of compassion and understanding with your vocal response being one that was more soothing and relaxing?
The emotional response that you gave brought about a reaction from the other person. They sensed that you were concerned about a potential threat or that you were genuinely interested in helping. They may have taken a step back away from you to show you that they meant no harm or explained to you that they were sorry for bothering you, but merely wanted to ask directions to the nearest shelter or church.
It’s a self-fulfilling process that is taking place each and every time. We see a situation, we pull together our view of the current reality based on our past beliefs, upbringing, and values, and then we apply an emotional response to the situation. It helps to validate who we are and what we believe in. There is no right or wrong response. We have formed our personalized definition of reality that we use every day in situations in both our personal lives and in our professional lives.
How can each of us learn from our realities? Are your realities helping make you the person you want to be in life?
Written by David B. Bohl of Slow Down Fast.