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Opportunity Center

Relative Reality

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

— Winston Churchill

Google defines reality as “The world or state of things as they actually exist.”  Seems pretty clear, doesn’t it?  Reality is what’s real – right?

Yes and no.

Our reality is how we perceive the world – and that’s the key… how we perceive the world.  As much as we’d like to be able to say that there is an objective reality, “objective reality” is always perceived/reported by the observer.  We may think that we can take the individual out of the picture by inserting some measurement device, but in the end, it’s still us observing the observation.  And, that’s what is soooo important.

Did You Choose Your Viewpoint Today

Most of us wake up however we wake up.  Some of us are cheerful (I just can’t take them early in the morning).  Some are quiet.  Some are grouchy.  Some just aren’t quite awake yet and don’t know how they feel about the day.

I know that most mornings I wake up less than eager to face the day.  I’ve adopted an attitude that life if full of problems and I’d like to go back to sleep and avoid them.  The challenge in that viewpoint is that if I expect problems, I’ll find them.  And who wants a day full of problems and struggle?  Not you or me, I bet.

Years ago, when I was working in Corporate America, the response was, “They’re not problems, they’re opportunities.”  At the time I thought this was just so much hooey – an attempt to brainwash us into believing in a rosier view of reality (there’s that word, again!).  I would smile and correct myself from problems to opportunities, but I really didn’t buy it.

I’m sorry to report, I was wrong.  I wasn’t just a little wrong, I was really, really wrong.

Admittedly, back then, the scientists didn’t know that I was wrong and neither did the people attempting to brainwash me.

The good news is that research has repeatedly shown that our viewpoint makes a huge difference.  And this has enormous implications for how we live our lives.

Do You Feel Lucky?

Amazingly, as small an item as how we view our luckiness can have big consequences in what we see and what we miss.

In a recent study, people were asked to designate themselves as lucky or not-lucky.  Then, they were given a newspaper section and told to go through it counting all the photos in the paper.  The lucky people all finished in one tenth the time of the not-lucky people because they saw the ad on the second page stating, “Stop counting, there are 43 photos in the paper.”  The unlucky people didn’t notice it, nor did they notice the one placed a few pages later that said, “Stop counting and tell the moderator that you saw this ad.”  Believing that they were not-lucky actually changed their powers of observation.  They missed opportunities that were right in front of them.

We all do it.  When we feel beset by problems, we narrow our field of vision.  I’ve seen it in myself and justified it using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  According to Abraham Maslow, when we’re preoccupied with survival, we don’t have the energy to look beyond surviving.

That’s absolutely true when we’re running from the wildebeest.  The thing is that we often think our survival is in danger, when we may be experiencing a temporary setback.  If we narrow our vision, we can miss opportunities that we just don’t see.

Getting Back to Feeling in Control

Often, the reason that we feel as if we’re in survival mode is because we feel that life has spun out of our control.  This can be the result of a bunch of temporary adversities that we’re not sure how to handle.  The key to changing our viewpoint is to take control of what we can control.

One technique for feeling more in control is to identify things in your environment that you’d like to be different.

In my life, that’s the spider infestation that took over my house during the heat of August and September.  Actually, the spiders are gone, but their webs remain.  And so, I decided that I needed to get rid of the remains this weekend.  I vacuumed every window ledge and corner and screen that had gunk on it.  Now, I feel more in control.  I own my house and the spiders are no longer my guests.  It was a little thing but it took me from feeling powerless to feeling myself again – a much better place to be.

I encourage you, if you’re seeing problems all around, if you feel out of control, change your perspective.  Take back a little bit of your life and you’ll see things you didn’t see before – maybe even a new opportunity.

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