I read an article a while ago (which I now can’t find) – which, when I read it felt like something that I didn’t initially believe. The premise of the article was that your world is shaped and controlled by how you choose to see and interpret that world. To a more “fluffy” extent, your world is a reflection of you.
As I read this I battled with the idea that things that happened around me, things that I didn’t control, could somehow be altered by me. In it’s most simple form: if you view the world around you as depressing, corrupt and racist you’ll continually find ideas and actions around you to support and reinforce this view. The articles in the media you read may lean towards corrupt corporations and governments misappropriation of funds. Your mind has a way of picking up racism in the people and events that happen around you. These ideas strengthen through this continual identification while the corrupt and depressing environment tends toward more depressing and more corrupt.
The above scenario is a combination of two shortcuts that your mind takes while processing information:
- The confirmation bias: By our nature we tend towards information that confirms our beliefs, and ignore or place lower value on information that challenges what we already believe to be true
- The availability heuristic: This is your mind’s process to shortcut searching for information (or further researching), by simply applying the most recent information it has available about a certain subject. The problem with the availability heuristic is that your mind allocates additional weight to options based on the recency of the information and tends to overestimate the likelihood of a specific future outcome based on the credibility it gives to recent information. An example of this may be that after seeing some television shows about people winning the lottery, you believe that you have a greater chance of possibly winning the lottery and find yourself spending more than you normally would on lottery tickets.
The opposite of the above is obviously also true. Positive, optimistic people re-enforce their beliefs by continually searching out the good in both people and their surroundings and find beauty in places a less optimistic person would overlook.
Recently while I was catching up with some friends, I saw an acquaintance that I’d not seen for around 3 years. A person that I’ve not spent a lot of time with, but I but had the opinion, was a real dickhead. The few times that I’d met him in the past, I’d disliked how he acted and how he’d always come across as self-centered. Each time I saw him, he managed to “prove” himself as the self-centered and arrogant person I “knew” him to be.
“You’re a dickhead and that’s all there is to it”. – I always thought to myself.
Having read that article (the one I can’t at the moment find), I’ve been trying to make a conscious effort to look for the good in everyone, and the environment in which I find myself, and seeing if it’s really possible to change my world simply by changing how I perceive it.
So when I saw this guy, at this social event, I decided to rather look for the good in him, (or see if I could maybe find any). I spent the time honestly engaging in conversation and listening as he spoke while paying genuine interest to what he had to say. Suddenly the weirdest thing started to happen. I saw this person in a completely different way. I saw the passion he had in his job, and how much love he had when he spoke about his wife and kid. He wasn’t the arrogant person I’d believed him to be. Simply by changing the way I looked at him, and looking for the good in him, I’d (in my world) changed this person completely. If you change your mind, you can change your world.
I don’t really believe that you have enough time, energy or connection to be friends with everyone that you meet and I don’t think he’s going to be my new BFF, but what was interesting was how my perception of him in the past, was perhaps a reflection of who I was?
…. wait …. “a dickhead” that’s not possible – forget everything I said above.