“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius
The way we perceive the world can affect how we experience it. Don’t fall into the trap of always seeing things as black and white. There are always some grey areas.
Perception is how we recognise and interpret the world around us, but it also involves how we respond to certain situations. Our perceptions in life are determined by our past experiences, beliefs and values. It’s the way we see the world. Just like looking at a photo from a different angle, it is possible to change how we see the world.
We may not have control over everything that happens around us or to us, but we can choose how we interpret them. In most cases, we understand a situation to be inherently bad or good. For example, you are out walking and it begins to rain, you don’t have an umbrella. Our natural and automatic response would be of discomfort, mild irritation at getting wet or frustration. But what if we saw this scenario from a different angle? Your clothes will dry eventually, and they would have been wet during a wash anyway. And maybe you find the rain to be refreshing.
Another example that is perhaps more poignant, is not getting the job after you thought the interview went really well. Naturally we would all feel dejected after news like this, especially if we thought we had done so well. Now, let’s reframe the narrative. We didn’t get the job which isn’t great, but the interviewer didn’t believe we were as good as a fit as we had thought, and in that case we probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the job anyway. We can also use this opportunity as a learning moment and seek out feedback to see where we could improve for next time. That way, we will be better prepared for the next interview and be open to new possibilities that are a better fit.
What we are trying to do by changing the narrative, is to choose a perspective that is empowering for us and allows us to keep moving through challenges. It is not about denying the negative or pretending it didn’t happen. It’s acknowledging that what happens to us does not warrant a fixed response; a failure is not always a bad thing. How we choose to perceive things, ultimately dictates how we experience them and we always have power over our perception.
Altering our perceptions won’t happen overnight. Our reactions to situations happen almost instantaneously, and this is largely due to our past experiences and the heuristics we develop over time so that we don’t waste too much thinking power on small matters like the rain. This means changing the narrative in our lives will involve conscious effort to essentially reprogram the way we interpret things.
Here’s a step by step guide of how we can go about doing it:
- Notice your automatic response to a situation (reacting negatively)
- Take a pause to reflect on the situation
- Let go of your initial reaction
- Think about how you can interpret the situation differently
- Choose the empowering perspective
- Go forth with the positive vibes
Life is what you make of it. So when it gives you lemons, make lemonade, marmalade, gelato, parfait… the list is endless. When you realise that an experience is not destined to be inherently bad, you will be able to go about life with more enthusiasm and positivity than before, because all of that negativity won’t be holding you prisoner.
Over time it will become easier and more natural to see life in this new way, the first step is making the change.
Article photo by Nong Vang