Choosing Possibility

Either you can see possibility in the world, or you can see the threats, problems and dangers. If you’re really talented, you will see possibility where others see a threat. This is called turning a problem into a challenge.

The magic secret is to understand that what you see is your choice. Do you notice yourself feeling defensive or mulling over issues? Then ask yourself:

  • What is the opportunity in this situation?
  • What is the challenge that lies in this problem?
  • How could I transform this into something good?

Shifting perspectives

bus

We never have all the information about the reality that surrounds us. Our reality can shift in an instant with the smallest piece information.

Take the following story:

You are riding on a bus. In front of you are two kids being very loud & obnoxious, jumping around and acting out of control (not in a cute kid way either, but in an irritating brat way). Their father is sitting right next to them paying no attention, doing nothing to intervene, and being the most disconnected father you have ever seen.

What kind of father do you think he is?

You decide to to something about it – what do you say to the father? “Excuse me sir, you could use some parenting skills – get a grip on your kids… and, oh, I’d better child protection services to report your serious neglect.”

Suppose you do approach the man, and he responds, “Oh, I do apologize, we just came from the hospital, where their mother just died suddenly. My children are a bit confused and not sure what is going on, and I’m still in shock.” Now what kind of father do you think he is? Did your reality change?

We can never have all the information, yet we often create negative tension in our reality based on how we believe the world to be. If the reality that we know to be true is most likely wrong, why not create one that generates less tension?

Alternate Reality Excercise

alternatereality
The latest exercise from Prof. Rao’s Creativity & Personal Mastery course is about shifting your perspective of reality.The reality that we construct for ourselves is based on the limited information we receive through our experiences. So if something in your world is not working for you, why not change it?Here is what you can do:

  • Pick an area of your life that is not working.
  • Create a new reality that improves upon this “reality”. (Make it up. Be creative.)
  • This new reality must be plausible at some level.
  • Start living with this reality, and gathering evidence that supports that it is true.
  • Disregard all evidence that disproves this reality.

And then see what happens over the course of a week. I find it almost scary how easy it is to find the evidence I need to prove something radically different.

Mind-chatter exercise

powercord

Creativity & Personal Mastery has started again. This week’s exercise is to record our mind-chatter throughout the day. It is a very powerful reminder of how unproductive our thoughts can be. The objective is not to get rid of the mind-chatter, just to observe it.

A brilliant example of how useless mind-chatter can be:

I purchased a power-cord for my computer, paid in cash, didn’t ask for a receipt, and when I returned home and plugged it in, I discovered it was a dud.

My mind chatter began exploring the scenario of returning the item, and soon it was worrying about potential problems from not having a receipt. I actually started to feel angry at these mythical future attendants for refusing my request without a receipt – and worse, kept repeating the story in my head.

And continued repeating it for about 2-3 days… until I had a chance to return to the store. Of course, they exchanged it without any questions, leaving me to question why I had created all this completely useless mind-chatter to begin with.

Learnings:

  • Follow-up idea #3: Use the mind-chatter exercise to notice when you are repeatedly worrying about stupid things. Especially things that aren’t likely to happen in the future that won’t impact your life if they did.
  • Reminder #1: If you won’t remember it in a year, it is not that important.
  • Usability tip #6: Observing is just that – watching the thought, noticing the sensations, and accepting what is there without trying to change it. I find this difficult, as if I have a built in habit to try and fix what I don’t like. Unfortunately this just creates tension rather then to dissolve the undesirable state.

Become the change you desire

“Become the change you desire.” triggered the thought for the day – thanks to Zen Chill on instant manifestation referring to a Steve Pavlina podcast.

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What was the last thing you tried to change in your life? How well did it work? Did it have a lasting effect?

Did you say, “I want to lose ten pounds. I must go on a diet.”
Or, “I want to be productive. I better start working hard.”
Or, “I want to be rich. I need to a better job and to start saving.”

These three have something in common: they require you to force yourself to change behaviors to achieve your goal. They reinforce that you are not what you desire:

  • you are overweight (or why would you need a diet?)
  • you are unproductive (or why demand the extra effort?)
  • you are lacking money (or why would you need more?)

Attempts to change behaviors usually fail. Why? Because they aren’t in line with your belief systems about who you are.

Instead, become the change you desire. Imagine it. Start acting like it. Your behaviors will naturally reflect yourself and bring you goal to you effortlessly.

Effortlessly does not mean without work or action. It means you stop forcing yourself to be something you are not.

Perception overload

hexagon

Wikipedia describes perception as the process of acquiring, interpreting, selecting, and organizing sensory information. Organizing is important, especially considering the overload of messages coming to us through advertising and these hyper-communication networks (e-mail, IM, SMSes, blogs, myspace, and now twitter). We have built up a culture of distractions – but what does it achieve?

Anxiety.

An interesting article from 1999, discussing the negative effects of Change and Information Overload concluded:

It seems that the biggest problem facing present-day society is not that there is too little progress, but rather too much of it. Our mind, physiology nor social structures seem fit to cope with such a rate of change and such an amount of new information. Unfortunately, change, complexity and information overload are abstract phenomena, which are difficult to grasp. Therefore, few people have as yet understood that they contribute to the anxiety they feel. When trying to explain their vague feelings of dissatisfaction, they will rather look for more easily recognizable causes, such as unemployment, pollution, crime, corruption or immigration. These phenomena, which have become much more visible because of the attention they get from the media, play the role of scapegoats: they are blamed for the lack of quality of life which people experience, while being only tangentially related to it. This reinforces an atmosphere of gloom and doom.

Changing change

man on car

I went to university in Baltimore, Maryland, and used to speak with the local homeless. I remember once, I was riding home on the bus, and got into a conversation with a beggar. He had an interesting request… he wasn’t asking for money, but for an exchange. He wanted to change his quarters for dollar bills.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because, once I get back to the shelter, and the others hear the change jiggling around in my pocket, I will have to share it with them. I am saving up to buy a new pair of boots to help me make it through the winter, and if I can hide away the dollar bills.”

This man had no job to worry about, no demands from society… other than the expectation to share his earnings from the street. All he wanted was that pair of boots, something I could have easily gone out and purchased for myself without thinking. But that didn’t seem to bother him. In fact, he seemed quite at peace with the world. He was working towards a goal, and seemed quite content to work for it one step at a time.

It’s amazing how many big issues I have in my life – problems which seem insurmountable, that keep me stuck and trapped in my day to day life. How many of these problems are necessary? Compared to this man, are they really that threatening?

Urban legend of the Eskimos

snowflake

There is an old urban legend that Eskimos have an extrordinarily large vocabulary for types of snow. Apparently the myth is usually blown out of proportion, but in its essence there is some truth: The more important a particular subject is to us, the richer our vocabulary will become to describe it.

For example, my flatmate, Viktor Bijelovic is a classical pianist. With my delicate ears, I can distinguish “soft” and “loud”, and can describe music as “yup, sounds good” and “uhhhh…”. (Okay, so I am exaggerating.) Viktor, on the other is able to critique the music he plays and listens to on a much finer level.

It is not just that he has a richer vocabulary, but he has significantly more experience observing music and paying attention to it. From his experiences he has learned to notice differences that I simply have not yet learned exist. By paying more attention to what we are experiencing in the present moment, we open ourselves up to understanding our reality at a deeper level.

Illusionary world

Did you know that your eye is constantly processing what you see? What you think you see has already changed from what light has actually reached your eye. Here is an image I was sent in an e-mail a long time ago that demonstrates this:

  • If your eyes follow the movement of the rotating pink dot, you will only see one color, pink.
  • If you stare at the black + in the center, the moving dot turns to green.
  • Now, concentrate on the black + in the center of the picture. After a short period of time, all the pink dots will slowly disappear, and you will only see a green dot rotating.

pink dot

It’s amazing how our brain works. There really is no green dot, and the pink ones really don’t disappear. This should be proof enough that we don’t always see what we think we see.

Learning to see

contour

Much of learning to draw is about learning to see. One of the first things I learned when I started to draw with pencil were contour drawings. In a contour drawing, you take a large pad of paper, put your pencil down on the paper, and trace a complex object without looking at the paper. You trace the object with your eyes, and refrain from looking at your drawing until you are done. The purpose is not to create good art, but to train yourself to look at the fine details of what you are drawing, instead of the drawing itself.

It is important to remember that what we think we see is colored by our beliefs about how the world is. More often than not we are seeing from our memories of how we have experienced the world, not how the world is right now.