Perception is the way we understand or interpret the events around us. Furthermore, the way we perceive or interpret an event directly determines our actions and how we deal with it. But if our perceptions are inadequate or faulty to begin with, our course of actions will be flawed and ineffective. Computer’s logic is flawless but if we input wrong data, we get out wrong reports and information, its impeccable prowess in logic simply won’t make a difference. It is the same with our brain, if the perception or interpretation (input) is faulty, incorrect and limiting to begin with, the conclusion will be faulty and ineffective.
For example, take an occurrence such as a “layoff”. One person may perceive / interpret it as a threat and feel depressed, while another perceives it as an opportunity to explore a new career or pursue a dream job and therefore feel excited and energized. That is: the very same event of being ‘laid off’ can be perceived and experienced in very different ways and leading to different actions and outcomes. In this example about “lay-offs” it is easy to see how one’s mood and action will be very different depending on her/his perception and that difference will have a direct impact on the outcome of approaching job search, networking, preparing a resume and interviewing process.
Let’s take another example ‘raining’. Raining is a neutral phenomenon. However, each person depending on his/her experiences and memories will see it differently. For example, if you have a large house with a large garden to take care of after work each evening, you may feel excited and say, “Great. It is raining; I don’t need to water the flowers and the grass this afternoon. I can spend more time with the kids or repair the broken door in the basement”. On the other hand, if you own a house in the suburbs, the rain may mean heavier traffic and getting home late. You may feel irritated and would probably say: “Damn it, not again”. You may even resent it and feel down. Yet, a third person may perceive it completely differently, he might say “Oh, it’s been raining a lot lately, I will perhaps experience a heavier traffic on the way home, but it will clear up the air pollution and we don’t have to worry about water shortage in the summer.” And he would probably feel neither excited nor irritated. So, it is very important to be aware of our perceptions as they directly influence our mood, our energy levels, our actions and their outcomes.
The good news is the way we see or perceive need not be fixed. If the way we understand an event is ineffective we can change it. Awareness / attention is the key, to be aware means to be fully present (mind-body) in the moment in a non-judging way. Generally, we are not aware. We mostly function from an autopilot mode. Our perceptions and actions are reactive, old, repetitive and habitual. We repeat the same response over and over again not appreciating the uniqueness of each situation or person. Therefore, our lives become redundant and boring. Failing to see the extraordinary in the ordinary, we don’t relate well to our loved ones, to our colleagues, to our environment or to ourselves. We drive to work or home in a trance, generally lost in day dreaming and fantasizing all along the way. This can have many serious consequences as it only takes a split second to be involved in a car accident. Similarly, we eat without paying much attention to the taste or the quantity we consume. We stop eating only when we feel “stuffed”, having ignored our body’s message all along. Later we may pay the consequences through indigestion, obesity, and high cholesterol.
When we cultivate awareness, we can see why events and things are the way they are. We get insights into our perceptions. Once we see the inadequacies and shortcomings of our perceptions and actions we can consider new possibilities. As our perceptions shift, our actions and the outcomes are influenced positively. What happens if I bring more attention and awareness into one area of my life over the next week? For example, take the “work”; How am I relating to my role, duties or relationship with my colleagues? Am I seeing / perceiving work as “something I HAVE to do”, or as “something I WANT to do?” Do I see it as a means to earn a pay cheque and live for the weekends to arrive, or as an opportunity to make a contribution to the well being of a society that I am a member of and has cared for me for so long. How do you see your job? Do you see it as a means to solely further your ambitions, or as a service to the whole organization and to the tens of employees that your contributions enables them to make a living and feed and support a family, a new born baby or an ailing parent near or far.
How we see/perceive is our choice, and it is important to know that we can’t help but rip the consequences, as you and I are not separate from the community in which we live; mess up the streets and we are messing up our own backyard, drive carelessly and arrogantly and we are being arrogant to our own family. Just like a pebble thrown into a pond our perception and actions ripple through the whole society, which our family and us are a member of.