The Perception Transformation (2015)
Chapter 4: The Perception Transformation
Your perception is the way you see the world. As we have discussed in the previous chapter, a negative perception can have pernicious effects on your life, and a positive perception can be a liberating and beneficial thing. Therefore, changing your perception could be the best thing you do in your life. In this chapter, we will attempt to explain changing one’s perception and the motivation behind bringing about this change. We will look at techniques and methods that can help you achieve this, so you can adopt a positive and healthy attitude towards life.
There are several reasons why you would want to change your perception. However, the most obvious and overwhelming factor is that a negative perception makes you very unhappy. It forces you to live an unhealthy and unproductive lifestyle, and hinders you from living life to the fullest or achieving the success that you deserve. Sometimes, you may not have what one would call a negative perception, but you may want to change the way you think and make decisions, if your current perception is not helping you accomplish your goals.
Regardless of what you feel your need to change your perception is, there are ways that you can begin to understand the process of forming one and then alter it. This has been described in the previous chapter; it mainly involves an understanding the thought process and how you eventually reach conclusions or form opinions.
You may be unhappy with yourself in your present lifestyle and the outcomes of your decisions. You may not be achieving financial success, personal satisfaction, social appeal, mental peace of mind or a generally healthy and prosperous lifestyle. However, you may also feel that certain factors beyond your control, which are mostly generalized as the pressures created by a vibrant social atmosphere, are causing your unhappiness. In this case, realizing that your perception is the root cause behind your disappointments can be very difficult. People seldom believe, or rather want to believe, that there is something wrong with them, instead of the world around them.
The bottom line here, is that your perception could be making you very unhappy in life, and therefore you should definitely change it. When we looked at the causes behind the development of one’s perception of events and objects, we saw how it was deeply rooted in that person’s experiences. These experiences could be based in one’s childhood, adolescence or even their adulthood.
Failures tend to affect a person’s outlook and thought process the most severely, and we carry our failures with us for a long time. Although it is good to do that, because we learn a lot from our failures, dwelling too much on them can warp our perception in an unhealthy way.
Equally detrimental can be the effects of dwelling on one’s successes for too long, as well. This may also change one’s perception in an unhealthy way. Finding the right balance, and allowing certain events to affect you and others to not, is very difficult for most people. Furthermore, as a person approaches adulthood, changing one’s mental attitude is a very complex and stressing endeavour, but one which eventually comes down to the person’s strength of character and will.
Thus, we see that many things can affect our perception and therefore, changing one’s perception can be very difficult. Our minds are attuned to viewing certain events, objects and individuals as positive and others as negative. Thus to change one’s perception would require to open one’s mind and allow it to form completely new opinions which are unaffected by previous experiences and events.
When we spoke about observing others people’s behaviour and their decisions in the previous chapter, the idea being conveyed was that you allow yourself to understand how and why they consider certain scenarios as positive and others as negative. If the majority consider a certain event as positive and you think of it as negative, ask yourself why.
Sometimes, you may need to force yourself to think of something as positive, even when your gut instinct goes completely against this. You will eventually begin to see the bright side of things, even those which are negative. This is the beginning of a change. Once you start to see how even the most devastating failures have a bright side, you will know that your perception has taken a turn for the better. As you go on in life and continue with your positive thought provoking practices, recording your thoughts and learning to transform your negative perception into a positive one will become much easier and you will notice a change.
When dealing with failure, you must realize that although failure in any aspect of your life will invariably cause scars, you must learn to rise above failure. You must rise above the anchoring effect that failure has on your drive and start seeing how your failure will help you become a better person. Any failure, or any bad experience for that matter, teaches you a lot. The important thing is not to let a single bad experience severely affect your perception.
Perhaps the simplest example, which demonstrates the veracity of this claim, is when you go out to eat at a restaurant that you have never eaten at before. You do not know what the food is like, so you go there to experiment. When the food arrives, you find that it is well below your expectations and in fact, when you go home you get mild food poisoning.
So you decide never to eat again at that same restaurant. What you should not do is to stop eating at restaurants altogether, just because you had one bad experience. Keep your mind open, allow yourself to experience new things and learn to see the positive side of bad things. You will now know that that particular restaurant serves bad food, so you will never eat there again.
If you can learn to change your perception, you can focus on exactly what you want to see in a certain scenario. You should also avoid ‘filter thinking’, which means hearing only want you want to hear when something is communicated to you. Another very common mental compulsion is what is colloquially known as ‘catastrophizing’. This means that you should avoid thinking that everything is going to end in a distressing conclusion. This is very devastating and can cause you to resign from making any effort before you even begin.
You need to focus on the positive things. First of all, you need to ask yourself what is it that you want to see. The answer to this would generally be that you want to see how even the bad elements of a scenario are beneficial to you, so that you can learn to be positive about them. But that is easier said than done. So how do you focus on the positive side of things which your perception would normally make you think of as negative?
The simple uplifting truth behind any failure, or any bad experience, is that it will help you become stronger. It will enable you to make better decisions and become a better person, but only if you allow it to do so. If you let your failures change your perception, so that you resign from your endeavours and lose your drive for achieving success altogether, then you will be very unhappy with your life. Getting back up after a failure is one of the hardest things you will ever have to do in life, but if you manage to do it, you will feel better, stronger and move closer to achieving success. The words of Maya Angelou capture this best of all.
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
History presents us with its own examples of people who failed at first, but then they rose above their failures, and achieved true greatness. J.K. Rowling, renowned author of the Harry Potter novel series, was rejected by numerous publishing houses before her books were finally published. She was also divorced, unemployed and raising her daughter on her own.
Henry Ford, the great automobile magnate, watched as the early business of his company forced it into severe bankruptcy. Today he is considered one of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time. Winston Churchill was a terrible student in his early days, failing the sixth grade. As a politician, he was defeated in every public office role which he contested, but later went on to become the British Prime Minister. Albert Einstein was considered a slow student by his teachers and professors. However, his contributions to the field of Physics won him the Nobel Prize in 1921.
Had any of the above mentioned people thrown in the towel when they first failed, the world would have been a very different place, for the worse. Thankfully, they did not. They looked beyond their disappointments by continuing to struggle and think positively. The fruits of their efforts are evident from the way their achievements changed the very fabric of human thinking.
You must try your best to avoid what is known as ‘black and white’ thinking. In this type of thinking you only consider things as either good or bad, i.e. there are no shades of grey. In order to open yourself up to new opinions and experiences, so you can see the bright side of things, you must embrace these shades of grey. They will keep your mind from generalizing or reaching quick and rash decisions.
Another aspect of changing your perception, is taking responsibility for your actions. After all, your thoughts are your own and nobody else’s. This again, is very hard for a lot of people to accept, but it is a truth that you need to deal with. This does not mean that you should think that if anything goes wrong, it is automatically your fault. There are a lot of things that go wrong in our everyday lives, and if you start blaming yourself for every such event, you will make yourself even more miserable and paranoid.
Positive thinking will be directly advantageous to your lifestyle. You will take control of your life and your mental and physical health will improve. Aside from that, positive thinking has been shown to be linked to an increased life span and lower depression. Believe it or not, a positive outlook on life has also been shown to improve your resistance to diseases such as the common cold! A positive perception allows you to deal effectively with stress, and become more pleasant towards your relatives and friends.
We have already discussed how you can understand your thought process. You do this by recording your thoughts. This can be very therapeutic if you are trying to think positively. Keep a diary in which you record your feelings and can reflect upon them later. By doing this, you can see exactly how negative thoughts and perceptions arise in your sub-conscience, and then you can gradually begin to eliminate them from your stream of thought. You can do the same with stress. Notice events and thoughts which cause your stress levels to rise.