Perception is the way in which we experience the world around us. It is the belief system that shapes us, stimulates us, and motivates us.
Perception has been defined as the process of becoming aware of the world around us through our senses. It can be a feeling, an opinion, an observation, or an insight. It is our intuition, our recognition, our discernment of perceived stimuli in our environment. How we perceive, interpret and respond to these stimuli is influenced by our past encounters, our feelings, our imagination, our values, our memories, our beliefs, our expectations, and our cultural setting.
What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing.
It also depends on what sort of person you are.
C.S Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew
Do you see an old woman or a young woman in this picture?
My challenge is to think about the link between my perception and my behavior and employ some positive thinking to challenge and change some of my irrational and dysfunctional core beliefs.
Perception allows us to experience the world by a complex system in which environmental stimuli impress us through our senses, followed by a cognitive process of those stimuli, which then produces a reaction in response to those stimuli. Everything in our environment has the potential to attract our attention and begin the process. The selected object that garners our interest is called the attended stimulus. This is may be familiar stimuli – such as our surroundings in the morning as we get ready for work, or unfamiliar stimuli, such as a truck that runs a red light and rolls into our path as we are driving home. Thus begins the physical process of perceiving, processing, and recognition based on the message that the brain and nervous system receives. The final step in the perceptual process involves some action/reaction. This may be a physical response, such as running toward a helpless victim to offer assistance. Or confronting the driver of that truck.
Chances are that at the end of the physical perceptual process, the action or reaction that occurs is based upon the sum total of the input that we have stored over the years.
The factors that influence our perception are every bit as important as the attended stimulus. This explains why people who see the same thing may attach an entirely different meaning to it. A number of factors residing in the mind of the individual and/or in the target object, or in the circumstance of the situation, can shape and often distort perception. The context in which we see objects, such as work, home, social settings, including time of day, noise, lighting, movement, etc. can contribute to our perception. Also the size, proximity, novelty of the target stimuli has some bearing on our view. A target stimulus is perceived based on its relationship to its background and situation. For example, compare your perception of a woman dressed in a bikini on the beach to that same woman if she walked into a fancy restaurant.
All of this in combination with our preconceived storehouse of feelings, emotions, attitudes, interests, expectations, frustrations, motives, and so on contribute to how we perceive what we see. And since no one has the exact same point of view as we do, we sometimes see the exact same thing quite differently. Take this familiar object:
How do you see this glass?
The reality is (based on a consensus of opinion) that this is a picture of a glass with something in it. Again, research has suggested that it is a picture of a glass with a liquid, presumably water. The question is – again based on historical (rather than empirical) data – is how much water?
The perceptions outlined below are (based on a lot of time and money spent by a lot of business leaders, psychologists, and other great thinkers) indicative of how some of us might assess that glass of water!
- The Optimist: The glass is half full.
- The Pessimist: The glass is half empty.
- The Salesperson: How much water would you like your glass to hold?
- The Accountant: Does the glass really need all that water?
- The Attorney: If there are enough people on one side of this issue I can file a class action suit.
- The Investment Banker: I’m only 50% leveraged.
- The Engineer: The glass is twice as big as it needs to be.
- The Quantum Physicist: The glass has a 50% probability of holding water.
- The Philosopher: If nobody looks at the glass, who’s to say whether it’s half full or half empty?
- The Politician: Let’s take a poll and then I’ll render my opinion as to how full or empty the glass is.
- The Servant Leader: Whatever the amount of water, I’ll use it first to quench the thirst of those I lead.
- The Author: If I cut the water count by 50%, I could sell it as a short story.
Can you add to the list?
Our behavior is influenced greatly by our perception. We make choices and decisions daily based on knowledge, experiences, and emotions that have been formulated from our past encounters. Personal bias and misunderstandings and unrealistic expectations can be a part of our perception of people, events, and situations. This is all a vital part of our core belief system. In our personal struggle to survive and to succeed, we often fail to “see the other side”.
What is important is that your perception is your reality. Since that is true for each of us we must try to understand one another’s perceptions and accept the differences.
- Set aside a time and place where you can reflect upon your perceptions
- List 5 experiences that you have had that were traumatic and/or catastrophic
- List 5 perceptions that you have about yourself that you feel are negative
- List 5 perceptions that you have about someone else that you feel are negative
- Recall any event, situation, circumstance that caused your negative perceptions
- Examine the roots and the instance of any irrational perceptions
- Reflect on what can produce a more pleasing perception
- Focus on creating a new reality where the circumstance and the outcome are better
- Rethink the way you see others: remember they have their own perception pack
- Reinterpret the way others see you: give yourself freedom to be who you really are
- Talk to others about your feelings and misperceptions – they may share your quest
Use the above reflection to focus on your perception of yourself and of other people and circumstances. And realize that perceptions can – and sometimes should – change as you grow and reinterpret yourself.
Life is like a kaleidoscope. As we look into one end, light enters into the other shining on the different particles and reflecting off the mirrors, floating, moving, changing, creating different patterns with a slight twist from the viewer.
“We sit silently and watch the world around us. This has taken a lifetime to learn. It seems only the old are able to sit next to one another and not say anything and still feel content. The young, brash and impatient, must always break the silence. It is a waste, for silence is pure. Silence is holy. It draws people together because only those who are comfortable with each other can sit without speaking. This is the great paradox.”Read More
Purpose is at the core of our lives. It is the spirit that guides us, propels us, and motivates us.
Purpose has been defined as our reason for living, the basis for which something exists, a goal, desire, or aim, an intention, decision, or resolution. For centuries, we have attempted to define purpose, find its essence, and apply it to our lives. Its true value often eludes us and seems to fall from our grasp. I think that is because as we go through life and our circumstances change, our purpose changes.
Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.
My challenge is to live a life of purpose. I have decided that to accomplish this I must know what that means for me. Earlier I wrote a blog, FIND YOUR PASSION. It’s hard to know what should come first – knowing my passion or my purpose. But I have decided that for me, they go hand in hand.
You have to find your purpose, what that means for you in the here and now, then determine to follow it. Listen to your heart.
- Set aside a time and place where you can relax and think about your life
- Make a list of 5 things that you love to do, that excite and inspire you
- Make a list of 10 of your talents , skills, and abilities
- List 5 things you have done to help others
- List 5 things that you would you do if you could do anything
- Recall your passions – what excites you, sparks your creativity
- Recall what people say to you – what kinds of compliments do they give you
- What would you regret never having done with your life
Use the above reflection to decide your purpose in life. And know that as you grow, your life purpose may change.
Life is a journey and each step may lead you to a place where you need to reexamine and redefine your purpose. That’s okay. No need to worry or feel failure.
Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.
Helen KellerRead More
Charles W. Eliot
My love affair with books began many years ago. Probably when I was about this age:
My mother often told me how I would raid the bookshelves in my father’s den, choosing books from flowers to medicine to mystery and carry them around babbling as if I was reading every word. I often used crayons to add my own illustrations. And from the moment I could read, she would take me to the library where I would emerge with stacks of books. I never lost that book stacking idea!
Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of picking up a book, settling into a cozy chair, or under a tree, and traveling to faraway places, discovering new people and lands, experiencing high adventure, or learning some new language.
A recent event precipitated the purchase of new carpeting for the den. Before the day of installation, our job was to “move the small things” out of the way! Although the two large bookcases do not fall into the “teeny” category, we had to box up the books and temporarily move them to another location. This of course led to the age old question: do we really need all of these books?
The quick answer was no, of course not. After all, we had just spent hours boxing them up and hauling them into another room. Their daunting heaviness gave pause. And yet, when it was time to move them back in, pick each one up, and carefully consider its value, it was as complicated as the plot in Hamlet.
After all, in this household we are educators and authors.
And there are bookcases in every room of the house, save the bathrooms. Books stacked on table tops, desktops, floors.
So, we sat down with each one, weighed the criteria and considered its fate.
Some books had to stay because they were old classics.
Some had to stay because they were new.
Some because they were meaningful. Some were just plain sentimental. Some were too significant to be tossed aside. Some evoked a special memory.
Some had been autographed by a favorite author.
Some had been gifts from mom or dad or other important people.
We began to question our decision. After all, can one really have too many friends? But we looked around at the stacks of boxes and the sea of opened books and carried on.
Admittedly, because I have a Kindle and an iPad and read primarily on those, I buy fewer books now. I often wonder what I had been thinking buying so many books. I have traveled cross country – east to west, north to south, with boxes and boxes of them. Leaving behind furniture – but never my friends! Yes, I am a book hoarder! So parting is, as they say, such sweet sorrow!
And so, it turns out that book friends should be shared with other friends!
I have been collecting books for decades. So this purging is just a beginning. Just remember, you do not have to do it all overnight. One page at a time!
To help you decide what to do with your old friends, er, books:
Here are some resources to assist you in the painful separation:Read More
Equilibrium: the condition of a system in which competing influences are balanced.
Achieving a sense of balance is not easy. Just defining balance is difficult. In science and mathematics, we tend to view balance as a weighing out, a measuring, a calculation – as in using physics to determine weight.
In our personal lives, we may view the balance as the remainder, the weighing, the tally – like in our checkbook.
Balance also has to do with steadiness, equilibrium, stability, poise.
Balance also means to juggle between the personal and professional aspects of our lives.
For some of us, the hardest day to day balancing that we do involves our inner peace. It’s often in this arena that balance most likely resembles a game of tug-a-war. We are undecided. Conflicted. Overwhelmed. We become impatient with ourselves, our family, our friends and co-workers. We get angry, aggravated, and annoyed. We are discontented, dissatisfied, disappointed. We have lost our sense of inner balance.
When we are “out of balance” we do not have the inner peace that we need to achieve the things that we want to achieve. We are indecisive, emotional, and distracted. We fall prey to our own loss of control. This often results not only in lack of productivity, but destructive chaos. We become immobilized, powerless, and ineffective. The daily “to do” lists hover over us like a lead balloon. Piles of work, laundry, dirty dishes taunt us. We are prone to giving in to laziness, unhealthy habits, depression. Often these prolonged feelings of helplessness and powerlessness create in us a sense of fear to move forward.
Balance is just as vital to our sense of well being as it is our checkbook, our physics problem, our teeter-totter. Below are 7 ways to bring some inner peace to your life:
- Eat Well – there are many viewpoints on diet and nutrition, but they all have a common thread running through them: eat well and you will feel well. Most of these common elements emphasize eating whole grains, meat, poultry, fish, nuts and eggs, dairy, fruits and vegetables and staying clear of processed and fried foods.
- Exercise – most experts agree that we need to exercise vigorously 4 or 5 times a week for at least 30 minutes. Exercise increases blood flow, which is vital for the proper operation of our organs and body systems.
- Rest – studies still tout the 8 or more hours of sleep every night. This is necessary for proper brain function as well as to replenish our body with the relaxation it needs. Try to go to bed and get up at the same times each day.
- Relax – aside from the sleep that our physical bodies need to function properly, our minds need the relaxation provided by meditation, reflection, and prayer. You may do this sitting on a beach staring at the sunset, practicing the ancient arts of yoga and tai chi, or reading a book, listening to music, or painting a picture.
- Rethink your life – what are your dreams and goals? Your vision for your life? Have they changed? Are you clinging to past ideas and values? As we grow, we change and often those ideals we established in the past no longer are applicable. It’s okay to reevaluate, reassess and redesign. Get rid of the clutter – physical, mental and emotional. Hold on to the dreams and goals that are still true, but discard the ones that act as roadblocks to your forward moving progress.
- Visualize your success – Make positive choices. That includes choosing to be around people who are positive. Don’t let discouraging people or distractions knock you out of balance.
- Develop an attitude of peace – Think positive thoughts – courage, hope, health, peace. Surround yourself with positive, encouraging, loving and supportive people. Try to see the other side – the good stuff – the way up and out. Count your blessings. Practice thankfulness. Laugh. Smile. Breathe.
(Today’s post, though not original, is meaningful to my life. I hope the same for you!)
I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty-handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances but they’re worth taking
Lovin’ might be a mistake but it’s worth making
Don’t let some hell-bent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out reconsider
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I Hope You Dance lyrics by Mark D. Sanders and Tia SillersRead More
COURAGE: the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, intimidation, or difficulty.
FEAR: a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined.
COURAGE TO ADMIT FEAR
Fear is a psychological response to any real or perceived danger or threat. Perception is reality. If you perceive danger, you feel fear. It is innate. It is universal. The human mind is wired that way. And, for as much as we understand the emotions of other animals, they are wired that way, too. Fear, and knowing what to fear, is one of the ways that we protect ourselves. It is a basic survival tactic. There is no need to be ashamed to admit when you are afraid.
COURAGE TO FACE FEAR
After we admit our fear, we have to determine if our fear is rational, or irrational. Are we in real danger, or is the perceived threat a reaction to an imagined situation?
The first, a rational fear, is a result of impending danger, evil, or pain and calls for an action of protection. For example, if someone is following you, you need to choose an appropriate course of action. Walk briskly. Cross the road, Change your course. Pass your house. Get to safety. Call the police.
The second, an irrational fear, may be a reaction to an incident that happened previously. Or to a dream, or even something we have seen in a movie or heard someone else talk about. Even though the fear may be based upon an actual incident, when it persists, causing disabling panic attacks and interfering with daily living, it becomes irrational. We must know what we fear. We don’t have to understand everything about it to face it. But we have to identify what we fear and face it.
COURAGE TO RESIST FEAR
Virtus timorem resistit
Once we have admitted, identified and faced our fear, we must choose an appropriate action to resist it. At this time, we know we are afraid. And often, fear has paralyzed us to the point of inaction. With this knowledge, we must employ the power of resistance. If we have decided that our fear is rational, our resistance to that fear must be based in action to dispel it. As I stated above, after we recognize the fear and what it commands of us, we use our power to decide upon its resistance – to call the police, to get to safety, to defend ourselves, and so on. We resist fear by acting against it.
In the case of an irrational fear, even though there is no clear and present danger, the challenge may, in fact, be more difficult. Yet, resistance is still the key. For our mental, psychological, and spiritual survival, we have to resist the strong hold of fear. Often, the more that we think about the “what ifs” and the negative feelings, the stronger they become. Instead of resisting fear, we are reinforcing it. I am not implying that we can readily adopt a “not afraid” persona. Not at all. I am just stating that to begin to resist the fear means we must steadfastly commit to becoming unafraid. You can say over and over again, “I am not afraid. I am not afraid.” This does not take the fear away. But it holds up a sign that says I am resisting fear. It is a step toward disallowing fear to take hold and cripple you. Once you begin to openly and loudly resist fear, you are on your way to healing.
“Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil, Resistance will unfailingly point to true North – meaning that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing. We can use this. We can use it as a compass. We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others. Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel towards pursuing it.”
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
COURAGE TO OVERCOME FEAR
Eleanor Roosevelt said: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Some of these methods include what we have already done: admit it, face it, stare it down, plan for the possibility of being afraid in a situation and examine and explore the consequences and resist it.
Sometimes we cannot do this alone. We need help. And often the people we are closest to are not going to be able to help us. You can get professional help. Psychologists and therapists have many different strategies and techniques to help you with the aspects of fear, such as phobias, and panic and anxiety attacks. One of these methods is Systematic Desensitization Behavior Therapy, which involves a step by step process to confront your fear. Another is Exposure Therapy, where the therapist exposes you to the very situations that you avoid for fear of having an attack. And counseling, or psychotherapy, can help you cope with any of those fears, rational and/or irrational.
Read: Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard
Learn how Much-Afraid overcomes her tormenting fears as she passes through many dangers and mounts at last to the High Places.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.