What is perception? Perception is reminding yourself that the world you experience around you is a dynamic reality that you can change. How you perceive things is not constant and it’s up to you to see good or bad. It’s up to you to take a leadership role or stay passive and see how your life unfolds.
If you find yourself unhappy do a quick experiment. Change your perception of your current situation. Make it a lot worse. Close your eyes and imagine, as vividly as you can that you lose one arm. How does it make you feel? Now, go ahead and imagine losing a leg. Now, imagine losing someone you love. Feel it. It’s scary but powerful. Now, go back to having everything again. Does it feel better? Does it fill you with gratitude?
My goal is to find tools, concepts, and strategies to live better. Adopting a positive attitude, growth mindset and challenging my perception of the world proved to be useful. I don’t want to convince you to become super artificially happy or positive, my job is to share what I learned and you do your thinking.
A positive attitude is an asset every day in nearly every way. It not only helps with little issues, but it also provides a positive framework from which a person can approach all of life. – John C. Maxwell
Attitude is the only thing that can determine if you have a good day or a bad one. Every day you get to choose: one day or day one. The attitude you have today will lead to the attitude for the next week, month, year and at the rest of your life.
The Frame You See the World Through
For the last 5 years, every year, I’ve been reviewing my year and looking back to see how far I’ve come, what I learned, what mistakes I did and how I enjoyed the journey. Every year, I ask myself, is it better than the year before?
The answer is, it doesn’t matter. What matters is it was good. Every year is the best year, every lesson is the best lesson and every experience is the best one because it makes who you’re. Without the previous best lessons you wouldn’t learn the best lesson today. The positive attitude is what matters.
The worst lesson can be the best lesson, it’s you who decides where, when and how the story ends. If you don’t like the beginning, write a better ending but it’s all in your control.
It’s easy to forget that we live in an artificial world. There’s more fake than real in shared human consciousness that served our species for thousands of years. The stories, myths, religion, companies, science. Everything was manufactured in our minds to help us cope with the complexity of the world.
How you see the world depends on the context, beliefs, point of view and how willing you’re to surrender and accept it as it is.
Does Time Exist?
It’s easy to forget that the world you see is your own. You’re trapped in your skull, that’s where your consciousness about yourself is. Your brain through your eyes, nose, mouth, ears and other body parts interpret the world for you. Your perception is what you call the world. There is no such thing as the sky, sunrise or time. It’s all made up.
Take time, for example, there are no hours in the day, there is no such thing as 60 minutes in one hour. All of the rules and concepts are created to make our lives easier. Its purpose is to empower large amounts of people to communicate, trade and live together without having to define what is time, money, day and night every single time we need to use these concepts. Not having these agreements and concepts and relative truths would create enormous chaos.
That’s why from the very childhood you’re trained to navigate in the artificial world, and it’s more artificial than it’s real. The beliefs and values you get from your parents, teachers, friends, and people around you all are artificial and there is no right or wrong. People made to believe themselves there is but there is no such thing. The world is not all black and white. There is a lot of grey but the human way is to default to extremes. You’re either friend or enemy, you’re right or wrong, you’re good or bad. That’s the human way. These biases help us navigate through life without being overwhelmed about making conscious decisions all the time. It would paralyze us. And all of the rules and world truths are created by people no smarter than you who had to figure out the way to navigate through life.
The United Kingdom was among the first countries to use a standard time for the whole country, replacing the practice of each place keeping its own local mean time. With the introduction of the railway, travel became faster. With every station keeping its own local mean time, the need for a synchronized time arose. The first railway company to implement a common time for all stations, appropriately named “Railway Time,” was the Great Western Railway in November 1840.
By 1847, most railways were using “London Time,” the time set at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. In 1847, the Railway Clearing House, an industry standards body, recommended that Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) be adopted at all stations as soon as the General Post Office permitted it. On December 1, 1847, the London and North Western Railway, as well as the Caledonian Railway, adopted “London Time,” and by 1848 most railways had followed. In 1884 GMT was adopted as the international standard for the civil time at the International Meridian Conference in Washington, D.C., USA. It remained the standard in the world until 1972 when it was replaced with Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). UTC is still primarily based on the solar time on the prime meridian (0° longitude) near the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.
It may be shocking, but the time as we know it was not such a big deal not so long ago. It was made up and standardized to help people cope with technological advancements.
Two Types of Mindsets
Some time ago, I read Mindset by Carol Dweck, I must admit it’s one of the most influential books in my life so far. It exposed me to the concept that there are could be two types of mindsets: the fixed and growth mindset. Fixed mindset sees obstacles differently and is generally doubtful and insecure. It’s extremely judgmental and thrives on self-doubt, negative talk, and comparison.
The growth mindset, on the other hand, is completely opposite. It sees challenges and obstacles as opportunities to grow and improve, it thrives on uncertainty and hard work. Growth mindset people are always looking for ways to learn and improve, they believe in themselves and not some mystical things like talent and luck or privilege. They don’t accept the status quo and work hard to achieve what they want.
Dweck argues, that the problem is that from the very childhood we are raised with an idea that natural talents are celebrated and failure or lack of skills is seen as a deficiency. It quickly creates a distorted view of the world and causes life-lasting traumas.
Remember when your parents and teachers were complimenting you on how smart, fast, tidy you’re but never emphasized the hard work and effort you put in and even when you fail you don’t give up and try again. They never put the effort in the spotlight and that made you believe that you’re either smart or dumb. There was no one telling you that talent means nothing without work, no one told you that you can develop any skill, you can learn anything and become anyone you want.
You don’t have to be born smart, fast, emphatic, open, outgoing and so on. All of these things can be learned. Some start with more talent than others but with the time they get used to getting the praise without work and their skills deteriorate, decline and once the hard-working individuals catch up they get angry, they complain, they accuse others of cheating and don’t realize they were sleeping on their laurels. They were embracing the fixed mindset and accepted things they are naturally good at, they thought they were gifted being smart and successful and once they didn’t get it when they got used to getting things easily it causes them to think they might not be that smart. They are dumb, these are the conclusions that come instantly and cause massive damage if left uncontrolled.
You can change yourself, your life, people around you, your worldview, acquire skills, learn new things and most important switch to the growth mindset. Just knowing about these two types of mindsets is a big step towards a better lifestyle.
The next time you’re presented with a challenge, listen to what your fixed mind tells you.
- Don’t accept the job offer.
- You don’t have the experience.
- Don’t go out with that person you like.
- You don’t know how to speak in front of people.
- Don’t pursue that business idea, you don’t have capital and never built a business before.
Don’t, don’t, don’t. That’s fixed mindset talking you out of what you want to do trying to save itself from being exposed as a beginner, trying to save itself from failure, from destructive humiliation. It’s saving itself from being laughed at, of failing over and over again. It doesn’t see the fun in the learning process, it doesn’t see the process it takes to learn something, it doesn’t want to lose what it already has, bragging rights, status, and self-esteem at being good at something. It wants to protect itself. Ultimately, ego and fixed mindset are one and the same, they have different clothes and behavior but it’s one and the same. It doesn’t do any good to you, always choose a growth mindset.
Figure It Out
To help you default to the growth mindset remember the following rule. Your only job is to figure out and do whatever it takes to reach your goal. Do you want to improve your grades? Lose weight? Start writing? Build a startup? Become an investor? Travel the world?
You have your North Star, right here: figure it out. In the beginning, you will certainly suck at using this rule. You may take the wrong path, you will waste time and money, you will struggle and will have to fight the resistance of the fixed mindset. But no matter how many obstacles there will be, you will overcome them because you will follow the rule and you will figure it out, sooner or later.
Failure is a prerequisite for great success. If you want to succeed faster, double your rate of failure. – Brian Tracy
Lifestyle is a choice, a positive attitude is a choice, growth mindset is a choice. All it takes is a decision you can make right now. You can decide to embrace the challenge, to toughen up and make your duty to figure it out. For yourself, for your family, for the world. You owe it to everyone, figure it out and enrich the world with your energy, passion and purpose-driven life.
Too much positive feedback can destroy you conceiving dysfunctional delusions. Derek Sivers, entrepreneur and author in one of his short TED talk discusses how sharing your goals can demotivate and work against you. It’s s simple psychology. If you decide to write a song and tell all your friends about it, you get the dopamine rush, the happiness hormone by portraying the future event and feel good by telling your future achievement. Your brain comes to the conclusion that you can get respect from the people and make yourself feel good by simply talking about your goals. Now, your intrinsic motivation level drops and you no longer want to work hard for it. People supporting you and encouraging you to write the song will create even more delusions and you will keep telling yourself that you’re writing the song while you will be just dreaming about the end result and the bragging rights. It’s easy to get into this trap.
It’s the same story when you constantly get positive feedback and surround yourself with the “yes” people who are lazy to look at things critically and identify the ways you can improve. “Looks good to me,” “that’ awesome,” “you’re doing a good job,” “it could be better but I like it,” these and similar comments are worthless, actually it has destructive power. You may be doing something wrong, wasting your time or living a delusional life and feeling good about it.
Bertrand Russell famously said, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are so certain of themselves and wiser people so full of doubts.” Now, I’m not saying that you’re a fool if you believe in something and do it with all your heart, what I’m trying to say here is that you need constant reality checks with the people you can trust and at the same time you can’t obsess over things that may go wrong and start doing what needs to be done. Figuring out the next step and take action.
Now, what happens when you face adversity. And you definitely will. It’s a positive attitude that matters in these moments when you’re about to give up. If you choose a purpose you care about you’ll simply toughen up and endure it.
Oprah Winfrey’s Positive Attitude
Oprah Winfrey has one of the most amazing modern rags-to-riches stories of all time. Oprah is the richest African American of the 21st century, and with a net worth of over $3 billion, she is regarded as arguably the most influential woman in the world. Her amazing success is all the more impressive considering her rough upbringing.
The daughter of an unmarried teen who worked as a housemaid, Oprah grew up in extreme poverty. Her family was so poor that, as a child, Oprah was teased at school for wearing dresses made of potato sacks. She also was the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of family members, which she discussed with TV viewers during a special episode of her show. Oprah’s first big break was her gig at the local black radio station. Stations managers were impressed with her oration and passion, leading Oprah to work her way up the ranks to bigger radio stations, eventually resulting in her appearing on TV as well. Robert Ebert convinced Oprah to sign the deal that launched The Oprah Winfrey Show. And the rest is history which may not be possible without her contagious positive attitude going through the adversity.
Focus on What You Can Control
It’s easy to lose focus and start worrying about the world around you. The key is to focus on your circle of influence instead of the circle of concern, first introduced in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.
Every time you turn on the news there are bad things happening and whether you like it or not you start worrying how it affects you. They talk about the latest cancer research, the side effects of drinking, the chemicals in drinking water, war in the developing countries, hurricanes, people losing jobs and dying in catastrophes. Suddenly, you involuntarily switch focus from your circle of influence to the circle of concern.
The Circle of Influence
The circle of influence is extremely small but it has big power over your life. It’s something you can change such as your thinking, reactions, attitude, body, hours you put in and so on.
The Circle of Concern
The circle of concern, on the other hand, is way bigger and is essentially uncontrollable. Events and people in the world you can’t control are in that circle. It’s where the war happens, economic crisis, stock market crash and people die.
You can’t control or predict the horrible events but you can prepare yourself by focusing on securing your financial future, improving health and taking care of your loved ones when the time comes. You can set up a savings account, you can acquire assets, you can set aside more money for investing, you can contribute to health and life insurance, you can eat healthier and exercise regularly to protect your body, you can read, write and meditate to be in a sharp mental state and you can work on your emotional intelligence by reading, talking to people and having a coach or therapist to help you cope with life.
There are more things you can influence than you think but it’s important to draw a clear line where the circle of concern begins and completely ignore it. Simply redirect your attention and energy to the circle of influence and stay in your lane. When you catch yourself worrying about the things outside your circle of influence, ask yourself what causes it? Why are you worried about climate change? Does it affect you directly? Is it because you wish to protect your legacy? Do you deeply care about the environment? Do you believe in humanity as species capable of changing their behavior for good? Are you ashamed of the future generations asking you why you didn’t keep yourself accountable and took action?
These are some of the things I ask myself and it turns out I care about my legacy, I care about creating a better world, not destroying it. I care about mindful consumption, sustainability, and reciprocity. When you find yourself concerned, mad, ashamed or even angry about the things you can’t control, ask yourself why? What is it that makes you feel this way? You must constantly ask questions to uncover hidden fears, motivations, and beliefs. As Tony Robbins says, “you change your life when you change your questions.”
Change Your Perception
You’re trapped in your mind and the world that you know around you is made up. It’s made up of millions of people before you, millions of people around you, you and it will be changing long after you’re gone.
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. – Maya Angelou
Once you realize the power you have to shape your world, change your perception and focus on things you can influence, you’ll never be the same. You’ll get a step closer to your awakened lifestyle allowing you to live to the fullest.