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How our Perceptions of the World Work For or Against Us

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How do you see the world?

How does your perception differ from others you know, including your family?

Why does it matter?

Those differences become obvious as we talk, act, and live our lives. It also influences the observations we make and the insights we get, and how we use them.

Perceptions are the personal assessments we make about the world, and they begin to form early in life, becoming more specific as we age. They influence all our relationships and how we communicate and interact with others.

We are often unaware of the perceptions we have created and how they might be working against us, sabotaging our relationships, aspirations, and goals and the ability to see things in a more positive way.

We are a combination of many things: DNA, personality, childhood experiences and the fundamental beliefs we put in place while growing up.

We form perceptions of who we think we are based on how we interpret those experiences.

Think about two kids growing up in the same household. Each can have very different perceptions of what their family is like. Simply put, it is the ability to determine life through our senses, awareness, and comprehension.

Attitudes, motivations, and expectations are also affected by perceptions. How we perceive the world shapes and forms these attitudes and mindsets, as well as the view we have of ourselves. It is affected by our personality, what interests us, and past experiences.

Remember that our perceptions are not reality.

Perceptions will influence the observations we make on a day-to-day basis. I live in the Pacific Northwest, where there are many days of gray skies. I like blue skies and sunshine. But looking at it from a different perspective, I am reminded that those gray skies and the rain that follows give us the beautiful green that I enjoy year-round.

So, I have a choice. When it is gray outdoors, I can allow myself to get into a funk or I can create comforting spaces inside my home that reflect light and color.

I may turn on a light or two.

In the spring when the gray skies seem endless, I focus on the exploding color of spring: tulips, daffodils, and flowering trees.

With thoughts and attitude challenged, I focus on what I want to accomplish, and my day is transformed.

I can do the same when challenged by negative situations.

I can choose to look at my problems in a more productive way. For example, I can choose to look beyond my first instinct to treat the grouchy neighbor in kind and instead offer him grace.

I can make a conscious choice to pray for that person I really don’t like. After all, God loves me even when I am at my worst. Maybe that difficult person needs to know and feel God’s grace as well. I find ways to set my boundaries while extending grace.

Perceptions and how we make sense of the world enable us to survive.

Without the ability to perceive, we wouldn’t recognize danger, and learn how to react to it or protect ourselves. For example, you might love dogs but when you come up to one that growls at you, you stand back even if you want to pet it because that growl is a warning they might bite.

Children growing up in an emotionally dysfunctional home learn that when their parent is scowling, it is a warning sign to not antagonize.

Perceptions we put in place can keep us alive.

However, when we perceive danger or caution in everything, we can become super-vigilant, depressed, and eventually worn out. We judge people adversely and we consider all situations as unfair. We develop biases and prejudices and we stereotype everything in a negative way. Anxiety replaces laughter or happiness. We no longer can make accurate assessments and we no longer experience joy.

So, in many ways, perception becomes the lens through which we view our reality, and it influences everything, from how we process to how we interpret things. The perceptions we put in place determine how we make assessments and then choose the best way to act.

Every day will present challenges that trigger an immediate response. If we develop the habit of responding without thinking, we can spend a lifetime feeling angry, resentful, and sometimes bitter. If we stop and consider, we can change or alter that first response to one that is both protective and accommodating or helpful.

When life seems like one problem after another, we will get depressed and strike out, or build resentments and blame others for all our difficulties and distress. Sometimes we just condemn ourselves.

However, remaining in that mindset takes away our personal power to find the solutions we need and will keep us locked in a never-ending cycle of bitterness and resentment.

Similar to changing a habit, we can alter our perceptions and replace illogical ones with logical ones.

We can learn to change our perspective and focus.

When we do, we see the wounds and pain that cause people to strike out; we see the losses that have colored their internal skies not only gray, but black; and we can appreciate the loving traits of friends and family and the people we work with.

And perhaps, when I am able to change my perspective, in the process others might view life differently.

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