You see the world as you are

There’s a quote attributed to Anaïs Nin and Stephen Covey, “We see the world not as it is, but as we are.” While the quote’s origin is unclear, its resonance is clear.

In The Art of Possibility (pp. 10-11), Roz and Ben Zander quote three neuroscientists who share a similar perspective:

The British neuropsychologist Richard Gregory wrote, “The senses do not give us a picture of the world directly; rather they provide evidence for the checking of hypotheses about what lies before us.” And neurophysiologist Donald O. Hebb says, “The ‘real world’ is a construct, and some of the peculiarities of scientific thought become more intelligible when this fact is recognized . . . Einstein himself in 1926 told Heisenberg it was nonsense to found a theory on observable facts alone: ‘In reality the very opposite happens. It is theory which decides what we can observe.’”

It’s simply not possible for us to perceive everything; our brain must filter out information. What it filters out is based on what we believe.

A lot of situations in life are rich with ambiguity. Exactly how we interpret, perceive, and decide to respond to these situations will change the way our lives unfold. Attachment styles are one clear version of this; if you’re more secure in your relationships, you will find it easier to maintain, deepen, and enrich relationships. 

Your relationship with yourself is another; if you believe that you’re not likeable, you’re going to behave in ways where you assume the other person doesn’t like you—you won’t invite them to events, you won’t initiate conversations, and you might even respond too coolly. Conversely, if you assume people like you, you’ll respond warmly, you’ll say hi, and you’ll invite them to meet up because you assume they’ll want to see you. You’ll create a positive self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you cling to a narrative that somebody else believed about you, then every situation will reinforce that narrative. You can also choose to actively change that narrative and the statements you hear in your head. Byron Katie’s Four Questions are a great framework to start with this. 

Very few of the statements we believe to be facts are actually set in stone. Most of them will be constantly shifting around in ambiguity. When you change the way you see the world, the world seems to change as well.

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