I love roller coasters. I love the thrill of the dips, jerks, upside down loops, shaking track. I love the adrenalin rush, stomach in my throat sensations. My friend, John, does not. Everything I love about roller coasters, John detests. Years ago, John and I were sitting side by side on a ride at Cedar Point. As we plummeted through the first gigantic hill, I was screaming, “This is awesome!” and he was screaming, in a much louder voice, “We’re gonna die!!” John and I were in the exact same event having two very different experiences. And this is exactly how all of us move through life.
The lens we see and hear through is very powerful. This is why two people can go through the same event at the same time and come away with very different views of what took place. It is not the event we are reacting to; it is our perception of the event we are reacting to—our thoughts, judgments and stories ABOUT the event. This is good, this is bad, this shouldn’t be happening, this is awesome, this is unfair, this always happens to me, how wonderful, etc. Our perception causes the experience, not the event itself. And it is the lens we look through that creates the perception. I was confronting a client in a coaching session one day, and asked him to repeat back to me what he had heard me say. What came out of his mouth was 180 degrees from what I had just told him. I thought, “Are we even in the same room?” There is an interpretation between what I’m saying and what is being heard, between what I’m doing and what is being seen. And flip that around: there is an interpretation between what someone else is saying and what I’m hearing, between what they are doing and what I’m seeing. That interpretation is the lens we all carry, and learning how to work with it can dramatically change your life.
Our perception causes the experience, not the event itself. And it is the lens we look through that creates the perception.
When we don’t know the lens is there, we assume that what we’re experiencing IS the event (reality), rather than our perception of it. This lens gets formed early and reinforced through accumulated life interactions, and it literally shapes what we see and don’t see in any given situation. When we don’t know the lens is there, we are subject to default mode, what has always been. There is no access to change the experience. That is why some professionals assert that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. This is only likely as long as people are living in default mode. But when we become aware that a lens is, in fact, creating the experience, and that we can have a different experience by altering the lens, we have an opportunity to move out of the context of default and into the context of intentional choice.
When we change how we see, we change how we be. Seeing and hearing in a way that is free from all the story and judgment we normally infuse into the experience is incredibly freeing. And when we see differently, we immediately show up or behave differently. Our actions are always consistent with how the situation appears to us. So as the situation appears differently we immediately alter who we are being in relationship to it. We literally have access to new ways of being that we didn’t see as options before.
Our actions are always consistent with how the situation appears to us.
At this point, the survival brain that wants to keep us in the land of familiar and “safe” may start arguing for our old patterns. We say things like, “But that’s the way I’ve always been! I can’t change now.” Remember, we have just identified two different contexts to live from—default mode and intentional choice. And context is decisive. It determines what is and isn’t possible, the rules, the boundaries, what gets rewarded and what gets penalized. When looking at default mode and intentional choice, arguing, “I cannot choose who to be now because of who I have been in the past,” is equivalent to a city saying, “We cannot build a football stadium because we already have a baseball field.” Really. Who you have been by default is a different domain than who you choose to be by intention. And the more clearly you see this, the more freely you will be this.
The best predictor of future behavior is not past behavior, but how you are seeing right now.
I say, the best predictor of future behavior is not past behavior, but how you are seeing right now. And next week I’ll kick off the New Year with two powerful ways to see your life through an intentionally chosen lens.
But I leave you with this question as we bid farewell to 2014: if you stopped defining and constraining yourself by your past, how would you live differently today?
To Your Great Life!