Yesterday, while on my way to work, I witnessed an unbelievable accident!
What was the first thing that came to your mind when you read the above statement? A car accident perhaps? That would be the most common response (for people in Western cultures). But why? Is there not a plethora of options? Of course! So why does our brains jump to a conclusion before we are aware of the actual event?
YOUR MIND MAP
Each of us has our own mental map of ‘reality’. We construct this map based on our experiences, beliefs, and perceptions of the world around us. Although it’s our natural way of making sense of the world, it can lead to misconceptions and biases if we are not careful. No matter how hard we try, it happens to the best of us. The key is to develop a check point for ourselves. This will take discipline, time, and self-awareness. However, it can be done and it can bring a whole new enlightenment to “reality”. I use the term reality loosely as we all have our own take on what reality is. OUR reality, is the world we experience and the beliefs we hold to be true.Take the below picture for example. The elephant represents the BIG picture.
However, each person is only aware of their own perspective. When asked how they would describe the elephant, they are only assessing it from their point of view and are unaware of the big picture. Sometimes, we get so caught up on trying to prove our version of reality is right, we forget to stop and listen to the view point of another.
WHEN YOUR IMAGINATION RUNS WILD
Have you ever caught yourself creating a story in your head about an ambiguous situation? From my experience, I almost always create a negative story to accompany the situation.
I recall the time my high school boyfriend was late coming over to hang out. I decided to give him a call to see where he was. The phone rang and rang until it finally went to his voicemail. I called again, and again, and again…. you get the point (I was a nagging girlfriend). When he didn’t answer I felt my blood pressure start to rise and my eyes begin to bulge. Then I became anxious, pacing the floor, thinking of all the things he could be doing. Did he forget? Is he seeing someone else? Who is he seeing? What are they doing? How long has this been going on? Why wasn’t I good enough?! As you can see, it progressively got worse as I added to the story line.
When he finally arrived, I was livid. I was screaming and crying mad (Please note, this was the old me. I am not this crazy person anymore). With a look of utter shock and bewilderment on his face, he went on to explain that his mom had asked him to pick up his little brother from wrestling practice. He left his phone in the car while he went in to get him, but the practice was running late. As he continued with his explanation, I started to feel like a bit of an idiot. How could I have let this get so out of hand?
I’m sure while reading this you are nodding your head and possibly cracking a smile, recalling times when you too have been subjects of the same fallacies. How do I know this? Because, if you are a human being, it has happened to you at some point in your life. How do we correct for this inherent disposition?
PAUSE, REFLECT, CORRECT
Pausing allows us to take the focus away from our reptilian or primal brain (which reacts much quicker than our logical problem solving brain). Why? Because it is meant to save our lives, whether that be activating our fight or flight response or defending our ego or territory. By taking a moment to analyze the situation we can begin to ask ourselves questions such as: Am I being rational? Could there be several ways of doing things aside from my own way? Where did my beliefs and values originate from and would they be different if I had a different upbringing or environment? If you answer these question honestly, you may be surprised by the answers that surface.
Reflection can be very humbling. As humans, we are creatures of habit. It’s not always easy to create a habit or break a habit. I can recall many times where I said or did something I swore I would never do again, only to find myself doing it again, swearing (yet again) I would never do it again. When we take the time to reflect on our history of thoughts, behaviors, beliefs, mindset, or actions we start to see a pattern emerge. The first process in change is making ourselves aware of these habits and how they are impacting our lives and the lives of those around us.
Correcting for bad habits or negative mindset takes time. However, I can guarantee if you stay vigilant, take the time to be open to other possibilities, and be humble and honest with yourself, the stories you tell yourself will begin to change and your map of the world enriched and expanded.