Today’s tip is adapted and excerpted from my newest book, Supercoach. Check out the PS at the end of this tip for an exciting announcement!
What do you believe right now? Take a few moments to finish these ‘sentence starters’ for yourself. You can do this in your head, but I strongly encourage you to jot down your answers somewhere you can find them after you’ve finished the book. That’s because they are likely to have changed so radically by the time we’ve finished our time together you won’t remember them later:
The most important thing to know about happiness is…
Now, however you’ve finished those sentences – positive or negative, thought through or impulsive, heartfelt or not – is simply an insight into how you currently see the world. Hopefully, you chose to answer honestly, knowing that no one but you need ever see your answers.
Look again at your answers. Do they feel ‘right’ to you? Can you think of lots of evidence and examples to back them up?
The secret we will be exploring in this session underpins everything else we will be doing together, because it explains why we see what we see, hear what we hear, feel what we feel and do what we do. It’s a secret that has been talked about in many times and in many traditions from around the world and is ‘secret’ not because no one wants you to know it but because it’s so difficult to talk about – like trying to explain the concept of water to a fish.
The secret is that we each live in our own separate reality. This is not some kind of an esoteric theory, but a physiological fact. Our brains filter information through the five senses then make representations of that information inside our minds. We then experience these representations, first as thoughts and then as emotions. But as we re-present the information in our mind, certain bits of the data are inevitably deleted, distorted and generalized. And since we all delete, distort and generalize that information slightly differently, we all have slightly (or sometimes completely) different perceptions of what is going on around us.
In other words, the way we think determines what we see, hear and feel, regardless of what is actually going on around us in the world. Or, to put it slightly differently, there’s what happens and there’s what we think about what happens. And what makes this important is that the lion’s share of our decisions, feelings and actions in life will be based on our thoughts, not the objective facts.
This is neither a new idea nor one associated with any one particular field of study. In quantum physics, the uncertainty principle says that we can never study anything objectively because ‘the observer always influences the observed’. Psychologists talk about ‘the Pygmalion effect’ and linguists say, ‘The map is not the territory.’ Shakespeare wrote, ‘There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so,’ and in the Christian Bible, Jesus says, ‘As you think, so shall you become.’
Perhaps my favourite way of thinking about this secret comes from one of my early mentors, author and supercoach Serge Kahili King. He describes the principle of thought like this:
The world is what you think it is.
While at first glance this may seem an innocuous idea, its implications are far-reaching. If the world is what you think it is, then life becomes one giant self-fulfilling prophecy. Your expectations create your experience, and if anything happens that confounds your expectations, you will most likely find a way of explaining it away or fitting it into your existing worldview. And any attempt you might make to ‘prove’ your theories about the world objectively will never gain universal acceptance, because you’re creating that world through your thinking in one way and other people are creating it through their thinking in another way.
If this all seems much too heady for a book about having more happiness, ease and success in your life, here’s a simple experiment to experience this phenomenon for yourself:
- Get a piece of paper and a pen (or make notes in the book).
- Now, take 30 seconds to look around you and make a list of everything you can see that’s green. (Do this before you move on to step three.)
- When you have completed your list, put down your pen. As soon as you finish reading this sentence, close your eyes and make a list of everything around you that’s brown.
Now, if you actually took the minute or so it takes to do this experiment, you will have had a direct experience of the effect of what you hold in your mind on what you experience in the world. If you’re still a bit befuddled, all you need to remember is this:
You will always tend to see whatever it is you are looking for.
Everything you will be learning in our time together is based on the fact that you are creating your experience of everything in your life through the way that you think about it. If you’re having a wonderful experience, well done – you’re creating that experience from the raw material of your life. If you’re having a horrible experience, well, well done – you’re creating that, and it can begin to change at any moment. Because once you really begin to understand how your thoughts create your ‘reality’, you will no longer be a victim of the process.
PS – The American edition of Supercoach finally has a release date confirmed and will be available in the US from March, 2010! If you’re in the US and would like to order the book in the meantime, you can get it direct from the UK today for a total cost (including shipping) of approximately $20 via this link.