I am still surprised by how different our interpretations of the world around us can be. It is a fascinating phenomenon that brings into question whether there is such a thing as a set reality or the truth of the matter, because whatever you consider to be ‘the fact’, someone else believes the opposite.
When I was studying with John Grinder, he gave me an invaluable way of approaching this. He suggested that, rather than trying to prove whether something was true or right, we paid attention instead to whether it was useful to us to believe that it was true or right.
This takes us to recognising the effect of that belief on us: whether it makes us feel better or worse; whether it enhances our attitude or behaviour or leaves us suspicious, disempowered, miserable.
I used to be someone who ‘knew’ that life was stressful, that the world was messy, that we were victims of circumstance – the list goes on and on! I had absorbed a lot of the cultural norms for how I viewed the world and the effect on me was pretty disastrous! I found life hard, the days full of problems or potential problems, and if I lifted my head above my daily concerns, the state of the world looked rather awful as well. I was a prime candidate for his message!
So I began to gradually shift my perspective, looking for more useful things to notice, so that I could begin to change my beliefs about how things were. I began to notice how much of what I did worked fine, how many people were pleasant and kind, what good things were happening in the world.
This doesn’t mean denying the bad bits and living in cloud cuckoo land. It is just about a re-balancing of perspective, so that you feel more able to handle the crap that comes your way with a more constructive attitude, because you can see that the crap is not the full story.
So just consider your average day, and notice how much of it goes well: you can eat and drink things you like for your meals; you are generally healthy; you enjoy the company of most of those you spend time with; your work or other activities are mostly straightforward for you to achieve; you get pleasure out of your leisure time. Of course there are glitches occasionally, but most of it is pretty good. (And if it isn’t, then for goodness’ sake do something about it!) If you notice and appreciate what works in your life, it feels better and you can enhance your energy to deal with those glitches.
And don’t allow the tendency of our media to emphasise the disasters and horrid human behaviour to colour your whole view of the world. Find out about the good things that are happening: the kindness of people, the innovative approaches to problems, the only newspaper I read is called Positive News and I find it an enlightening re-balancing of reporting, telling me about the good things in our world.
I’m not proposing this adjustment of what you notice and pay attention to in order to turn us all into naïve optimists – or maybe I am! Because it is optimists who enjoy their lives, and more than that, make a difference in the world. They are only called naïve by cynics!
It is useful to believe that your life works pretty well, that people are generally good, that things can and do get better. It encourages you to notice what confirms these beliefs and to actively take part in building those confirmations.
Come on, let’s count those blessings, and believe life is good – isn’t it what we’re here for?