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Are your Perceptions getting in the way of your success?

By | David Klaasen | Helping You Create Clarity, Inspire Your People & Drive Performance | Retain your best people | Changing Management Mindsets and Behaviour | Practical Behaviour Analytics

The mind is a fascinating thing because it can so easily run amok with negative thoughts if you let it. A few years ago, during the global financial crises, I caught myself pondering about a client who decided to end a contract due to the recession. It reminded me of a wonderful story about a native American Indian elder who was speaking to his grandson of the fight that is always going on in our minds.

He described it as two wolves who are constantly battling with one another. He went on to say how one of the wolves represented Unhappiness: our worry, anger, fears, frustration, resentment, jealousy and spite. The other represented Happiness: our truth, serenity, joy, kindness, helpfulness, empathy and generosity. After thinking about it for a few minutes the Grandson asked “Grandfather, which wolf wins?” He replied “Ahhh dear grandson, that’s a wise question . . . it’s the one that you feed!”

When we are feeding the ‘wolf of unhappiness’ we can forget about all the positive things in our lives. During the recession it was very easy to get sucked in to the doom and gloom and even now there is still the uncertainty of the financial crises in Euroland. While the facts of the matter were frustrating, it was important to look objectively at the facts and not just at my perceptions of the facts.

Our perceptions will often end up zooming in on minute details of the problems and dwell on the “If only . . .” and “What if . . . “, which can preoccupy our minds with blame, worry, fear and anxiety . . . and feed the wolf of Unhappiness. This triggers our Amygdala and creates a stress response which feeds more negative thinking.

Isolate the facts

The key skill is to isolate the facts from our perceptions. There is a Buddhist saying that “Suffering is not in the fact but our perceptions of the fact.”

Once I began to zoom out a bit from my worrying about losing a client and fears about the economy, and notice the delights of the magnificent Orchid that had burst into bloom in our conservatory or the joyful news that one of my nephews was celebrating the birth of his first daughter, I was able to step back and get a bigger perspective. This helped me to focus on how fortunate I am to have a wonderful wife, on being healthier than I’ve ever been (despite the passing years) and on having the opportunity of contributing to the sustainability and growth of so many exciting businesses and the people who work in them.

Creating a space to be grateful requires a more general perspective. When there is upset, tension and anxiety it is usually because we get lost in the details and lose sight of what’s good in our lives.

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