Have you ever thought about what reality is? No, I’m not talking about simulations or brains in vats. I’m talking about how we all see things so differently. I mean, if everyone saw reality the same, then we would all respond in similar ways, right? But we don’t. People will say things like “you need to come back to reality” or “that doesn’t happen in reality, it’s just a movie.” If reality is actually a thing, why do we all respond so differently to everyday situations?
Take this for example. Two people are in a room. In the corner of the room there is a small garden snake minding its own business. One person notices the snake and thinks nothing of it. It’s minding its own business, so why would it bother me if I don’t bother it. The second person sees the snake and begins to have a panic attack. They back into the opposite corner to get as far away from the snake as possible. So which person is right? Which is seeing reality?
This is actually a trick question. Both and neither are seeing reality, because reality isn’t just one thing. It lives within each person individually. Nobody knows what reality actually is. We only know our perception of it. The way our bodies interact with the environment, how our brains interpret that interaction, filter that through all your personal biases and preferences and that is what you know as reality. This is why two people experiencing the exact same situation can react entirely differently. It’s two separate realities occupying the same space. Neither person is right or wrong about the situation. Neither one of them can know for certain what reality is. Whether the snake is aggressive or docile is unclear until the snake exhibits a behavior, however it is clear one person believes it to be, and the other either does not or at least decides it’s irrelevant. Life will happen whether we want it to or not, and none of us know exactly what it will hold. We can either worry about what could happen even though we have no assurance any of it will happen, or we can enjoy where we are at and take challenges in stride.
Inside all of us there is a part of our brains that filters out what makes it into our focus. This is called the reticular activating system. We take in so much information every second that not all of it can be comprehended at once, so our brains crunch down what it thinks will be the most important to us and presents it as conscious thought. The more we think about something the more our brain brings things to our focus in our everyday lives that relate to it. If we love burgers, we might be more likely to notice burger joints around town than someone who does not. If we like making money, we might see more opportunities to invest than others.
Something else that is important to remember with this is our minds do not comprehend the negative. What I mean by this is if you keep telling yourself that you have to avoid stress at all costs, all your brain hears is stress. So, guess what you feel? That’s right, stress. You will also start to notice more things in life that stress you out. Because your mind hears stress, that’s what it focuses on. When your mind focuses on something you will tend to gravitate towards that thing. If you’re always focused on how unfair life can be, you will find yourself in more unfair situations because those are the things you notice most. If you focus on how many opportunities life can afford, you will find yourself getting more opportunities because that is what you are looking for. The good news is this system can be used to your advantage. If you are always looking for the silver lining in things, you will eventually start to see the positive in difficult situations without even trying!
Alright, so we have no clue what reality is and only know our perception of it. Our minds bring to our attention what we tend to focus on the most and we start to see more of those things in our lives. How do we use this? We can worry ourselves to death about worst case scenarios that may very well not happen, or we can choose to see things in a positive light and make the best of what comes. Maybe the worst case happens, maybe it doesn’t. We can’t guarantee an end of the world event, but we can guarantee that if we act as if the worst case will happen, then regardless of whether it does or does not, we will experience life as if it’s already come. If we choose to live life thinking positively, living in the moment, and looking for the good, then even if the world does end, we will have lived a fulfilling life and be in a better headspace to find solutions to the problems we face.
When we allow things outside of our control to dictate how we feel, we become a leaf blown about by the wind to wherever it takes us. We relinquish our ability to choose to feel good and allow the world to dictate who we become. When we decide to actively focus on the good, strive to see difficult events as opportunities to learn, and keep ourselves rooted in the idea of choosing how we think, we become empowered to make our lives calmer and happier. It all starts with how we view things. If we change our perspective, we change our reality.
A Message from the Author
Thank you for reading! I hope this article makes you think and consider new possibilities from your life. My name is Mitch Hunter and I am a life coach specializing in relationships and stress management. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com or schedule a free session with me by clicking here. Change your perspective, change your reality!