Consider a time when you and a bunch of friends went to see a movie and afterwards several of you held different perspectives of the same movie. You may have interpreted certain scenes in the movie as the best, while other friends considered other scenes as those that truly made the movie worthwhile to see. This experience is an example of how our perceptions shape what we believe about our life xperiences.Our perceptions about our life experiences is based on the “why” beliefs and emotions we feel at the time of the event. Our perceptions create the “story” or meaning that we tell our self and others about an experience. In the case of the movie, you and your friends shared the same experience, yet the "story" that each of you told about the movie came down to each individual's perception of the movie.
The Power of Re-Scripting Our Personal Stories
The perceptions that you have about your life experiences is directly linked to the “meaning” that you have attached to them. The story that you tell about your experiences has a tremendous influence on your outlook on life and the attitude that you will take towards similar circumstances. One of the most powerful insights that I continue to learn is the mental and emotional power that is accessible to us when we re-script not-so good events from an empowered perspective. The manner in which we explain the events of our life is termed our “explanatory style”.
According to Wikipedia, explanatory style is a psychological attribute that indicates how people explain to themselves why they experience a particular event, either positive or negative. Psychologists have identified three components in explanatory style:
- Personal. This involves how one explains where the cause of an event arises. People experiencing events may see themselves as the cause; that is, they have internalized the cause for the event. Example: "I always forget to make that turn" (internal) as opposed to "That turn can sure sneak up on you" (external).
- Permanent. This involves how one explains the extent of the cause. People may see the situation as unchangeable, e.g., "I always lose my keys" or "I never forget a face".
- Pervasive. This involves how one explains the extent of the effects. People may see the situation as affecting all aspects of life, e.g., "I can't do anything right" or "Everything I touch seems to turn to gold".
Re-scripting my not-so good experiences is not a futile attempt to deny the truth of my reality. Actually, I have to be willing to own the truth of a situation before I can shift from a disempowering perspective to an empowering approach towards the circumstance. Once I choose to “see” the event from the lens of the answers to the following questions: “What am I learning about myself and abilities?” to “How have I grown from this experience?” “How will I serve in a greater capacity as a result of this experience?” Each time that I have chosen to look at a not-so-good experience from this perspective, I have always been able to identify the advantage that comes from experiencing adversity. Approaching life from an empowered perspective enables me to muster up the faith and courage to press through the challenges of the not-so-good experiences to find my way of getting back on track.
The Wisdom of David Brooks
This week in the “Way of Wisdom” installments, I want to share with you the wisdom of journalist David Brooks on this subject. Brooks wrote the following passage in the article, “The Rush toTherapy” for the NY Times, November 9, 2009. His thoughts are:
“Among all the things we don’t control we do have some control over our stories. We do have a conscious say in selecting the narrative we will use to make sense of the world. Individual responsibility is contained in the act of selecting and constantly revising the master narrative we tell about ourselves. The stories we select help us, in time, to interpret the world. They guide us to pay attention to certain things and ignore other things. They lead us to see certain things as sacred and other things as disgusting. They are the framework that shapes our desires and goals. So while story selection may seem vague and intellectually, it’s actually very powerful. The most important power we have is the power to help select the lens through which we see reality.”
You and I have been endowed with free-will and it allows us to transform the way we “perceive” any event or area of our life through our freedom of choice. Denial of the truth of a situation does not apply. You can choose to interpret any not-so-good event in your life from a more empowered perspective that makes you feel stronger, wiser and better. The positive emotional energy created by this action helps you to gain the clarity of focus necessary to overcome obstacles, triumph over tragedy and embrace life with an attitude of gratitude for God’s grace in your life and the strengthening of your spirit, soul and body to live stronger, wiser and better.
It’s Your Move ~ Aspire HigherReferences: Wikipedia and the NY Times Newspaper, November 9, 2009 issue