What you perceive to be true and what is actually true aren’t always the same. In fact, those two things can be so far removed from each other, you might wonder how you ever thought what you thought in the first place.
You’re not always right, this you already know. But what about when you know you’re right, and you take action on that “knowledge”? Who is affected by your behavior when you go on a belief that may actually be incorrect?
Your perceptions define your reality, and your behavior is based on what you believe to be real. Today is a reminder that what you think is true may just be a alternate reality that you made up.
Today’s quick quote is by Jim Brown and it’s this:
“I’m not interested in trying to work on people’s perceptions. I am who I am, and if you don’t take the time to learn about that, then your perception is going to be your problem.”
Thanks to brainyquote.com for that quote.
I love how confident this quote is. Jim is saying that if you can’t accept me because of some false reality that you created about me, that is your fault, not mine.
Of course, this quote flies in the face of what I’m talking about today. You see, I want to work on your perceptions. I want you to see that there is always more to what you see, and that your life can be so much less stressful if you just decide to expand your perception.
Perception is powerful and creates truth for you. Perception is the path to belief, and you act upon what you believe.
Jim says that ‘your perception is your problem’. It doesn’t get any more blatant than that. A few months back, I talked about how a male gym teacher was arrested in Virginia a few years ago for sexually harassing a young female student. She said he brought her into an equipment room and attempted to force himself upon her on top of some tumbling mats.
However, she was lying. None of her comments turned out to be true, and later on, it was found that she made the whole thing up.
The man lost his job at the school and got his reputation tarnished all because a student made something up. His family went through torment all because almost everyone believed that young girl’s story.
There are real cases of molestation, so things like this, unfortunately, do happen. But without even talking to the girl, police investigators came into the school and arrested the teacher.
Our perception is that if a child says that an adult touched them in a sexual way, it must be true. In most cases, it probably is and in all cases, an investigation should definitely ensue. But what about when it isn’t true?
Even after the teacher was acquitted of all charges by a jury in a record 47 minutes, there were still protesters that absolutely believed the girl was molested and that he was guilty. This was even after the girl told her Facebook friends that the whole thing was a joke.
Yes, there were still people whose perceptions created the alternate reality that made this teacher’s life hard even when the rest of the world knew he was innocent.
Our perceptions are what define our behavior. When we refuse to allow any flexibility in our perceptions, we close our mind to possibility and sometimes even the truth.
Child sexual molestation and abuse is a very awful and painful reality, and there are simply too many children that fall victim to it. So we are almost always ready to believe a child when they claim such a thing.
The idea behind any accusation however is to keep an open mind to all possibilities. If we are to truly seek justice for those who deserve it, remember to save our opinions until we hear all sides of the story.
Perception is created when we decide what to believe. When there’s a lot at stake, even when you want something bad enough, seek to be objective and balanced in your observations.
When Jim Brown says, “…I am who I am, and if you don’t take the time to learn about that, then your perception is going to be your problem.” I’d go one further and say that it could be everyone’s problem when you are dealing with hot button issues.
In the case of this gym teacher, people wanted to bury him before they heard any of the facts all because the welfare of a child was at stake.
Believe me, when I see news stories where people are caught doing heinous acts like that, I want to bury them too. Then I have to step back and say, “Whoa, I don’t have all the facts yet.”
I want to believe so bad that they caught the bad guy. And I’m certain most cases, especially in child abuse of any sort, the bad guy has been caught. But because there are so few people that turn out to be good in these cases, the ones who are truly innocent end up suffering and going through ringer until they are cleared. And even then, they are never cleared, because there are still people out there that believe the person is guilty.
It’s like the reviewer who thought I was talking about my ex-wife’s issues without permission. She thought I was very selfish and just plain mean. The reality she created, her perception, caused her to take action by writing a review and sharing with the world that I was not in integrity or something.
In my opinion, when you jump the gun and make the assumption that your perceptions are correct, without asking if what you believe as true is actually true, you’re traveling a dangerous road where people’s names could be tarnished and their reputation corrupted.
Imagine if someone thought that you smacked their kid. They showed up at your door and just started yelling at you because they believed without a doubt that you smacked their kid.
It’s not a good feeling to be accused without even having a chance to talk about the issue. Our emotions get involved, and once that happens, our logic tends to take a back seat.
Let’s bring some of that logic back into the front seat and see where this show takes us today.
Alright, if you’ve been listening to the end of the last two episodes, I’ve mentioned the book, How to Deal with Irrational People and how I was trying to get it published and ready to download through Amazon.
Well, for those that have irrational people in their life and want to learn how to deal with them, it’s finally ready to go. However, the reason I’m telling you about it now is not only because I think you should buy it, but also because irrational behavior comes from a place I don’t cover too much in the book.
All irrational behavior has a root cause. Well, all behavior has a root cause, but my main focus today is on what causes us to do the things we do. In the case of irrational behavior, what causes someone to act so irrationally?
Irrationality is what happens when you have faulty beliefs. In the book, I talk about how irrational people attach an inaccurate meaning to reality. And when one person looks at something and thinks, “Isn’t that nice?”, another person might look at it and say, “That’s awful and should be destroyed!”
How do two different people have such vast, differing opinions? Why does one person believe everything is fine and another think all is chaotic and out of control?
The environment is the same, but there is one thing that will almost never be the same, and that is our perceptions.
Someone walking uphill might complain about the hard climb ahead, while the other person might get excited about the chance to build muscle and reach the top.
Your perspective defines your experience.
It’s good to keep this in mind, because just this one statement can redefine your entire mood.
Have you ever seen a homeless person and felt really bad or even guilty? As you’re driving or walking by, you get that twinge of pain or feeling bad and your heart goes out to them.
Likely, if you do feel this way, you are compassionate and don’t like to see others suffer. However think about this… how do you know they’re suffering?
How do you really know they’re suffering? I’m sure the first thing that comes to mind is that, “Of course they’re suffering, they live on the street!” But that’s not always true.
In fact, there are many facets of homelessness you may not be aware of. After I spent a couple months in a soup kitchen and a few more months on welfare, I met a lot of homeless people. Some were there from a series of bad circumstances, and others, believe it or not, wanted to be homeless.
I learned this after I got back on my feet. When I was no longer trying to survive, I started a business and wanted to donate some of the profits to a homeless shelter or organization of some sort. So I visited one in San Diego and got a tour.
The director of the shelter told me they take a van out every night or every other night or something, and they give food, water and directions to the shelter to people sleeping on the streets.
What they heard more times than not was that these people were perfectly content living on the street. Their begging at street corners was keeping them paid and well fed, and they loved being out of the system of taxes and government.
This really shocked me! Because up to this point, I didn’t think people chose to be homeless, I thought they were all victims of circumstance and/or poor decisions in life. But it turns out so many of them are content living on the street.
That’s not to say being homeless isn’t easy, but it’s a lifestyle choice for many of them.
And of course, it’s not a choice for others. A lot of homeless people don’t want to be where they are just like I didn’t want to wake up at 5 AM every morning to stand in line at the soup kitchen.
There are all kinds of homeless people. Some are mentally ill, some just want to be detached from society and rules, and others have their own story and certainly don’t want to be in that predicament.
But can’t you say that about many segments of society? I’ve met middle class people who hate their jobs, hate where they live and want a new relationship.
Then I’ve met poor people who are happy as can be living in a shack.
There is no standard that defines happiness for everyone, there is only your personal definition of what happiness is to you.
What that means is that because you don’t know someone’s story until you talk with them, you really don’t know if someone is actually suffering, or if you only perceive they are suffering. Getting back to the homeless, there are definitely those that are suffering.
When you see someone pulling food out of the trash can, that’s a lot different than holding a cardboard sign. That’s either mentally ill, or really down on your luck, or both. But because we wouldn’t want to be in that position, we call it suffering.
Suffering is labeled by what we wouldn’t want to go through ourselves, more or less. If we saw someone hit their thumb with a hammer, we would imagine what that would be like and immediately empathize with the person suffering.
And when there’s pain involved, there’s usually a point at which suffering takes place. Suffering however doesn’t have to last, but the pain can last for days, weeks, or more.
And when someone is in pain, we empathize. We are compassionate. We think, “Oh that poor person!” because we ourselves wouldn’t want to go through their experience.
However, feeling sorry for someone comes from our perception of what suffering is to someone else. And when you see a homeless person lying on the street, your first thought might be that they’re suffering, and you may be right. But you also may not be right.
In fact, have you ever actually sat down long enough to watch some homeless people’s behavior? I lived in Portland, Oregon for three years, and there are a lot of homeless people there.
Well, anywhere you go in that city, you’re going to run into them. So, I’ve spent many a day sitting outside eating lunch somewhere, or just hanging out in the park, watching homeless people. I got to observe their behavior.
One of the most revealing things that happened to me was when this kid came up and asked for money for a hostel. He said he was new in town and just needed a place to stay for the night. Well, fast forward about a year. I saw this same kid holding the same sign telling the same story.
He came up to me just like he did the year before and asked me once again if I had any money for a hostel. He just arrived and needed a place to stay for the night.
This time, I got a little ticked off. I was thinking, “You’re gaming the system! People like you give the disadvantaged a bad name.”
I think I told him, “No, get lost. You’re the same guy who asked me last year, so you’re just a liar.”
I don’t think those were my exact words, but it sounds like something I’d say to someone who did that.
But that incident opened my eyes to the fact that many homeless people figure out the story they want to tell, then use it over and over again to collect money.
Now, I know some of you are thinking, “Well, what’s wrong with that? They’re still less fortunate and they need to eat!”
I sort of agree with you, but sort of don’t. Again, that’s a perception. Your perception makes you believe things that may or may not be true. Your perception narrows your perspective to a very limited box of reality.
They are not always less fortunate. Some of those beggars you see are making more than you. Some of them are homeless by choice. And like the director of the homeless shelter told me, many of them don’t want to be helped.
He said he’d give them a ride to the shelter, and many didn’t want to go. Most of them didn’t want to go. They were happy where they were and actually refused food, shelter and a shower.
Now I’m not here to put people down who are homeless. Far from it in fact. I’m only making a point that not everything is as you perceive it to be.
What you may think is suffering could be something else entirely. I used to feel awful guilt and shame for having a better life than a beggar on the side of the street. That was until I started noticing some of the beggars were wearing nicer shoes than me. I started getting suspicious many years ago.
Then when “I” was one of the homeless, I was mixed in with all types. Those that were truly suffering and those who were completely happy being homeless and getting free food and money everyday.
But after that time in my life, my perception changed. It’s not that I don’t feel sorry for homeless people, I just don’t feel guilty anymore. The guilt and shame stemmed from believing that I was better off than a homeless person, and I felt bad because I was doing nothing to help them. But that dissipated quite a bit when I found out that sometimes they are better off than I am.
It doesn’t change my mind about the homeless who don’t want to be homeless, that’s for sure. I still have a place in my heart for those who truly suffer. But I’m not so bombarded with guilt and misery anymore when I see homeless people.
That’s because I’ve changed my perception. And when you’re able to change your perception, you can stop feeling so bad all the time. There are perspectives that you adopt that give you more balance in your emotions and help you stay level-headed.
Homeless people are one example of a perception shift, but there are many others all around. Sometimes people will truly suffer, and sometimes what appears to be them suffering is really just our own belief that they are. What’s real is what’s actually happening, not what we think is happening.
Let’s talk about if we can change our perceptions next.
Perception can be defined as what you experience and interpret through your belief filters. In other words, when you form a belief about something and don’t bother to substantiate whether what you believe is true or not, you have a perception.
A good example of that is when I heard a speaker talking about something really awful that happened to her as a child. There was another speaker in the front row of the audience watching her.
Then a member of the audience got up and recited something just as awful that happened to her. Everyone in the room was touched and they were tearing up. Everyone except that one guy in the front row.
In fact, he didn’t seem to care at all. He showed no interest whatsoever in these people pouring their hearts out.
I immediately made a judgment about him. I said things to myself like, “He must not care! How could he possibly care if he just seems so uninterested?”
So many questions and judgments went through my head, and I found myself thinking the worst of him.
I didn’t trust him, and I tried to avoid him throughout the night.
Then he got up to speak and I was surprised just how connecting he was with the audience. But again, I thought, “well people practice to be good speakers so it’s possible he’s just using some speaking skills.”
Then later on, when I had kind of forgotten about him, I found that he had posted all kinds of videos of the talks he was watching on Facebook. He said so many nice things and actually repeated a few of the highlights of the talks under the pictures and videos.
In fact, when I conversed with one of the attendees later, it turned out he was focused on recording all the speakers on his phone so that he could post them to Facebook. He wasn’t attached to the same emotions the audience was simply because he keeping his mind on the filming process.
So I felt like a fool. I thought he didn’t care, but it turned out that he cared quite a bit, and made sure to spread the word of the talks to the world.
My perception of him was that he was uncaring and cold. The reality turned out to be quite different. He was very caring, but focused on getting his tasks done.
Our perceptions are based on what we believe is truth. So how can we change our perception? Do we even want to?
It’s possible your perceptions save you a lot of time. They’re the generalizations you make about the world. For example, saying something like “All pit bulls are dangerous” would give you an easy to follow rule that tells you to stay away from all pit bull dogs.
Regardless if that’s true or not doesn’t matter. What matters is the rule set you created for yourself and if it serves you. Your perceptions define the rules. However when your perceptions are inaccurate, and you don’t question what you believe to be true, you end up judging things without discernment.
Just like when that gym teacher got accused of molesting that child, most people judged him without discernment.
There are sometimes good reasons to do so for sure. If you saw someone who couldn’t defend him or herself getting picked on or beat up, you might jump in to save that person without thinking that you might be misinterpreting the event. After all, one person is beating up another person.
Your best guess at what’s happening is usually the only thing you have to go by. But when there’s an opportunity to be fair with all the data you’re receiving so that you can make an educated guess about what’s happening, it’s sometimes best to “hear both sides of the story” so to speak.
In a way, your perception is only helpful when you don’t jump to conclusions.
That sound easy, doesn’t it?!
So what’s the point of all this perception talk anyway? The idea I want to convey today is that just because you perceive something to be true doesn’t make it true.
However, when we think about changing our perceptions, it’s actually tricky for one major reason:
You are your perceptions.
You are the filter in which life is interpreted. And if you have some dysfunctional programming in you, and are still needing to heal from wounds from your past, your experience of the world will be through the filters of your experience.
Does that make sense?
If not, then keep listening to my perspective. Sometimes it’s good to get other perspectives to change your perceptions, right?
The first step in changing your perceptions is knowing that you are your perceptions. What you perceive can only be understood by relating it to what you yourself have gone through.
For example, since I grew up in an alcoholic household, I used to see anyone that drank alcohol as dangerous to me. Or, at the very least, I didn’t want to be around them. My experience had proven 100% of the time that people who drank alcohol made me unhappy or scared in some way.
So when I moved out, I brought that perception into my adult life and it caused all kinds of problems. Not just with alcohol, but with anything anyone could get addicted to, including sugar!
The problem was that I didn’t know I had a perception problem. I believed that everyone else had a problem and that I was perfectly fine.
I’m here to tell you, if you think everyone else has the problem and you’re fine, it’s time to re-evaluate yourself and figure out if it’s just a perception problem. It’s possible you may perceive yourself as fine, but ask yourself the question:
“If there was something that I should probably change about myself, what would it be? “
Seriously ask that question of yourself. Once you get the answer, compare what you got to what you perceive in the world. In other words, whatever you’d change about yourself, is that what you notice in the world?
For example, if you want to lose weight, is that what you see in others? Like, looking at an overweight person and thinking, “Wow, that person needs to lose weight!” It’s focused on others instead of yourself.
A good example of that happened when I was still married. I asked myself something similar like, “If I could change anything about myself, what would it be?”
My answer is that I didn’t want to react to my wife eating junk food. I’d prefer to be perfectly okay with her eating anything she wanted.
My realization came right then. I figured out that I was the problem, not her. I figured out that I had spent most of my life worrying about what other people did that I didn’t bother to look inward to learn how I was causing the problems in my life.
Because, think about it… think about what really bothers you about specific people in your life. Maybe you have a parent that belittles you, or a relative that is always begging for money. Who are those problem people in your life?
And when you think about those people, why do they bother you so much? Typically you’ll come up with something pretty deep that I’m afraid to even mention, but I’m going to say anyway in hopes that I can convey this as clearly as possible.
In fact, that’s how we’re going to end today’s episode. Last segment coming up.
So, have you thought about the people in your life that cause you problems? Do you want to know why they cause you problems?
Sure, it could be your perception of them. But what it really comes down to is something much deeper, much more complex to understand.
The real reason other people bother you is because you’ve attached a part of your identity to them.
Let me explain… who you identify yourself to be, how you feel and what you do everyday is a big part of your identity. But even more so, the people in your life help define that identity too. A good way to look at this is when you feel more powerful when you’re with more people.
When you’re by yourself and someone threatens you, you can feel very scared and alone. But if you have one or more people with you, you might not feel that way at all. In fact, you might be quite brave.
The reason for that is two-fold:
- You’re not so ready to jump into fight or flight mode, so you’re not as stressed
- Who you are has expanded
Who you are expands into the people around you because of your verbal and physical interchange.
That means that the person to your right or left is an extension of who you are. It’s another resource, it’s an influence, this person can lift your spirits or bring you down. The more positive people you are around, the more positive you generally are.
The same goes for when you hang around negative people.
It’s that Jim Rohn quote I read to you in another episode, and it couldn’t be more true:
You are the average of the five people you hang around most
Or something like that. That means the more you hang around with a very critical friend, the more critical you become. Or, the worse you feel about yourself because you are hanging around them. Either way, you simply don’t feel good.
And if you’re with a group of people that make you feel bad, you are not with the right crowd. And this goes for family too.
There are too many well-intentioned family members that try to help us, but in reality they don’t. Whether it’s family, friends, co-workers or other people, you are going to be the average of those you spend the most time with.
Think about that not even in levels of your personality or mood, but in your levels of personal growth too. I once heard a phrase in the computer world that I never forgot that really applies here too. When someone asks, “Why is my computer so slow?”
The best answer I’d ever heard was, “It’s only as fast as your slowest component.”
I thought, Whoa… that’s so insightful! I see, so if I have a blazing fast processor, a speedy motherboard, a quick printer, but my hard drive is slow as molasses, then my super duper fast computer will never work faster than my hard drive.
I see that with people too. If I choose to hang around with people that don’t empower me, then I will be stuck behind that 18 wheeler trying to make it up the hill.
You know what I mean? You’re in a hurry and you want to get to your destination, but you’re now on an uphill climb waiting in a long line behind a truck that can only go so fast up the hill.
This is what it feels like. You feel stuck because of some of the people in your life. And when people around you are an extension of you, you will only be as successful in whatever you do as the least successful person in your group.
Now, I know that isn’t always true. Because you are also an extension of others as well, so if you’re successful, and they are open to being successful and are willing to take whatever steps necessary to make it happen, you could essentially bring the whole group forward with you in your success.
But that’s the exception, not the rule.
So when people or situations bother you, remember that because you have attached a part of your identity to them, you should probably evaluate if you want to have their level of growth and success in your own life. If you don’t want to be like them or have their level of success, maybe it’s time to move away from those people.
You will only be as successful as the average level of success in the group you’re with. So if you don’t like the feeling you get when you think about that, then it’s time to maybe make the hard decision and move on.
For example, I told my girlfriend if she ever decided to smoke, I would not be in this relationship anymore.
I had to wrestle with this thought, because I really want to be the guy that lets the closest people in my life do whatever they want to do. Hey, it’s their body, what do I care, right?
But I realized that she is an extension of me, at least in the mental sense where I feel she is a part of me. And if I absolutely am against smoking in my own life, why would I want a part of me smoking?
It’s a decision I made that forces me to accept the consequences if she decides to do it. I don’t believe she ever will, but I’ve thought about that dilemma and what I’d do if it ever happened.
Is it slightly judgmental? Yes, it is. After all, it is her body and she should be allowed to do anything she wants with it. But, because I do not want smoking in my life, I don’t want to be with someone who smokes. So, I’d make the hard decision and leave.
It’s not always easy to take accountability for yourself and actually follow through with something like that, especially when you care about someone deeply. But it’s a matter of honoring yourself and being true to you.
I wouldn’t always just leave if I disagreed with what she decided to do with her life. For example, if she wanted to get a tattoo on her face, I might have a strong objection to it, but I don’t think that’s enough to make me leave.
But the point is when you make decisions that uphold the highest “you” in mind, if that makes sense, you start to attract different people and things into your life. When you honor yourself and your personal boundaries, your perceptions start forming. You start weighing what you perceive to be true with what you want in your life.
And knowing what you want in life is half the battle.
We talked a lot about perceptions today, but even if you choose to not stay open to other perspectives and ideas, you still have the option of honoring what you want in your own life.
You may perceive something to be dangerous and make sure you’re nowhere near it. Or, you may take the opportunity to weigh everything evenly and come up with a different perception on the matter.
But I think the most important thing to consider, if you’re going to take away one lesson from this episode, is that your perception defines your path and sometimes the path of many other people too.
If you’re quick to judge or quick blame, remember that your perception is an insight to your experiences in life and not necessarily the full breadth of what’s true.
You may believe what you know to be true, but others can believe what they know to be true just as much. So listen to perspectives before making the judgment call. Test theories and ideas before going with your own beliefs.
Your perceptions can help you make quick decisions, and the brain can work that fast when you’re under that kind of pressure. But when you have the time to weigh all sides of a story or situation, take the time.
Be open to the idea that your perception may not be everyone’s truth.
Thanks for listening.
I haven’t told anyone but you that the book, How To Deal With Irrational People is now available on Amazon. I’m serious… look up the words “irrational people” on their site and see what pops up! You’ll find it. And if you happen to get it, well, you’ll be arming yourselves with some amazingly powerful tools that will prepare you for the next time you deal with an irrational person.
Connect with me!
Keep up with the show by signing up for your weekly personal growth message.
I want to thank the listeners who are using the Amazon link on the site to support the show. All you need to do is shop like you’d normally shop, but use the link before you make your next purchase from them. Your shopping habits are making a difference. And, they’re going towards a good cause: You.
I can tell that many of you are shopping through the Amazon link, so I acknowledge each and every one of you, so if I didn’t call your name in this episode, just know that I appreciate you and thank you for being there for me, listening, learning, and growing.
How you perceive the world defines your experience of the world. I know people who really believe the world is out to get them. So I’m going to tell those people straight up, the world is not out to get you, but even if it was, how does that belief serve you?
Even if it was 100% true… how does that belief serve you? You have an opportunity to change what you believe. You can choose to believe anything you want, as long as you feel drawn to it and it helps you achieve your higher purpose in life.
For the longest time I wanted to believe in nothing I couldn’t prove existed, then I realized that by doing that, I was creating my own limitations. I was creating my own mental blocks.
Imagine that for a minute… if you wanted to be wealthy, but knew you would never be wealthy, do you think wealth would ever come into your life? Why would you? You can’t create a reality that you think doesn’t exist.
Your perception defines your path and dictates your actions. What you believe is what limits you which is why it’s best to stay open with your beliefs and keep gathering information weighing all sides of a situation.
Then soon, you start expanding your beliefs. I thought I had no intuition, but chose to be open to the fact that I do, now I use it all the time. Don’t limit yourself by creating immutable beliefs, those are the kind of beliefs and perceptions that you refuse to change.
Balance the data, and weigh all arguments, then take action and make the decision.
This way, you can step into your power and be firm in those decisions and actions, so that you can create the life you want. When you do this, you’ll discover what I already know to be true about you, that you are amazing.