Almost everyone has heard the saying, “It’s all how you look at it.” Most of the time, we’re saying this to someone who is failing to see a silver lining, or who can’t seem to see the opportunity in what has just happened to them. It’s become synonymous with that other old chestnut about seeing the glass as half full or half empty. Even though we hear these pieces of advice all the time (and may even use them ourselves), I think they only touch the surface of the incredible powers of perception.
In our previous two blogs based on Ryan Holiday’s book The Obstacle is the Way, we went through a lot of great concepts, including how to always have a Plan B and how not to get caught up in the trap that begins with complaining. But the real meat of this book is about perception. Not just altering your perception, but learning how to control it.
Wait, did I just say control your perception? Isn’t that some mystical concept? Is it even possible?!
It’s NOT magic and it IS possible. It’s all about mindset and altering the way you view things that happen to you. When something happens to us (a job promotion, a relationship breakup, a flat tire, the cancellation of a trip), our immediate reaction is to label it as either good or bad. Once that categorization happens, emotions kick in and it’s all downhill (or uphill in some cases) from there. The train has left the station, folks, and there’s no bringing it back! The trick is to stop the labeling before it can even start.
To see every obstacle as an opportunity, the basis of Holiday’s book, you must first train yourself to see all situations straightforwardly. Not as something good or bad, just as something that has happened. How do you go about thinking in a way that is so radically different from our normal way? Here are three tips that can help you out:
How to Control Your Perception and Eliminate Labeling
∙ Look at the event as a detached observer. Most of us see all events in a way that is highly personal. We don’t just see the event as something that has happened, we see it as something that has happened to us. This enables all kinds of emotions and hard feelings, especially if we feel the event was unfair or has ruined our plans. Try looking at the event as an outside observer, or even as the reader of an interesting novel. This allows you to be more objective and lets you reduce the personalization.
∙ Eliminate expectations. When we expect events to unfold in a certain way, we are opening ourselves up for disappointment, resentment, and unhappiness. Hardly anything happens in exactly the way we expect, and if we’ve built it up a certain way in our heads, we’re bound to feel let down. Why not just accept every event for exactly what it is? Go into it with an open and curious mind and look for what it is, not what you think it should be.
∙ Stop interpreting. Do we ever really know what people mean when they’re communicating with us? Most of the time, we are taking their words or actions and interpreting them through our own lens of what we think is going on. Do we think this person dislikes us? We’ll probably see everything they say or do as an attack. When we interpret, we close ourselves off to the possibility of understanding. Next time you talk to someone, try to take off your interpretive lenses and see how it changes things.
It is only our awareness of a situation that makes it ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in our own minds. The great news here is that you are absolutely in control of that labeling behavior. Am I saying it’s going to be easy to see a breakup with someone you adore as a chance to learn more about the world and broaden your horizons? Of course not. Sometimes, life just sucks and it can be extremely difficult to detach from that and find the opportunity that exists. However, the more we practice and the more we put our perception to the test, the more we’ll begin to see that life is truly how we choose to view it.
Trish Cody has over 18 years of experience consulting with some of the world’s top Fortune 500 Companies. Today, as an ICF and iPEC Certified Coach and Energy Leadership Master Practitioner, Trish works with clients to uncover their core values and beliefs, clearly see how they are showing up in their behaviors and impacting their success, and to shift their thinking to naturally attract positivity and success. For more information, visit www.TrishCody.com.