Perception Is Reality

Perception is reality.

Truthfully, your perception is your reality…

It’s one of my favourite things because it provides the biggest opportunity for breakthroughs.

You’ve probably heard the question “When it rains, is it good or is it bad?”

Of course we’re all going to answer with whatever suits us.

If you have an outdoor wedding planned for this afternoon, then the rain is bad. Everyone’s going to get wet and you’re going to have to move the wedding under cover with no sunshine. But if you’re out in the country and your tanks are empty and the rain will fill your tanks up, then you’re going to say that the rain is good.

(And that reminds me of my beloved mother-in-law. She was wicked about the rain! When it rained, it was definitely bad, it was awful! And I’d say, “But what about the tanks getting filled up?” And she’d just reply, “Bloody rain.” And “this better be over soon.” She just hated it when it rained; she was an outdoor girl, and she loved getting outside in the garden and getting her hands dirty. Rain meant that she couldn’t go outside and being confined inside for her was very negative. She was not good at picking up a book and curling up on the lounge and having a read. It just wasn’t her thing).

So basically the only thing that you can say about the rain is that it’s water falling out of the sky, created by certain atmospheric conditions. And when the conditions are right the water condenses and it falls out of the sky because it’s too heavy to stay up there and we call that rain. This rain is actually fundamental to our well-being.

But we put all that aside because we form an opinion.

We argue that our opinion is a fact, and we try to get everybody to agree with us. So we say things like “The rain is good, look here’s all the proof.” And we trot out all the reasons why the rain is good. And everybody who’s saying the rain is a bad, trot out all the reasons why the rain is bad, hoping that the people on the other side of the argument are going to swap sides – and of course they never do.

We argue like crazy for our point of view, and we never get anywhere because people don’t change. It’s kind of like saying, “You should dump your religion and come over to my religion, cause my religion is the only true real religion, and you should stop mucking around with that other false religion and come over here.”

Of course no one is doing that.

Let’s take it to another level.

I’ve spent many happy hours hang gliding, but a lot of people will strap into a hang glider and not be happy.

If you were in the hang glider would you feel liberated or terrified?

You will know your answer to this question because if you’re going to be terrified you wouldn’t even get in the thing. And if you were feeling liberated, then you’d be saying, “This is soooo exciting” and that you’re looking forward to it.

People are going to fall into two categories. Whether you’re feeling liberated or whether you’re feeling terrified, the reality is the feeling would be real for you.

(How real will that feeling be? It would be real enough so that if you were terrified you might throwing up, or paralysed, or you might be screaming yourself to death. You might be absolutely so terrified and fear struck that you can’t even speak, that you struggle to breathe, that your heart rate accelerates and your temperature goes through the roof.)

While the feeling would be real and it’s absolutely true for you, that doesn’t mean that the reason for the feeling is true.

Let’s look at it from this point of view.

If you’re part of the crowd that would be feeling liberated up there in the hang glider – soaring in the breeze, going wherever you could go, feeling like a seagull, or an eagle (and certainly that is the feeling that it generated for me, that real sense of being able to fly which to me is like suddenly my life goes three dimensional instead of two dimensional) really you’re not feeling liberated because you’re in the hang glider.

The hang glider and the experience of that kind of flight is the excuse that you’re using to allow yourself to feel free.

(If you’re feeling terrified, I feel sorry for you but that’s okay too).

And what you’ll see is that these two things are really calling into question the feeling.

I’m not saying you can’t feel liberated and you shouldn’t feel terrified.

What I am saying is those feelings can be created without the hang glider.

It’s not the hang glider, and it’s not the environment. What you’re feeling can be turned on from a different part of you.

The thing is, you don’t feel liberated because you’re in a hang glider. You feel liberated because you’ve given yourself the excuse to feel that way and you’re allowing yourself to feel free because of the physical circumstances. But you could easily close your eyes and imagine flying that hang glider and getting 90% of the same sensations.

(I happen to know that it’s true because every time that was I missing going hang gliding, I would take myself off on an imaginary ride in my hang glider. There are some great things about the imaginary ride in the hang glider too – I don’t have to get it out and put it on the car, strap it to the roof and drive 40 kms. Then undo it and construct it and then go jump off a cliff. I could actually just sit in my lounge chair and have exactly the same experience, without all the time and effort and of course the expense.)

And this applies to whatever you want.

So if what you’re saying is “I’ll feel happy when I get the house paid off,” I suggest you start feeling happy now and work towards paying the house off.

If you’re saying, “I’ll feel better if I go and visit another country,” then I’m going suggest you could do 90% of that with your imagination.

As I said before, the reality of the feeling in the hang glider isn’t necessarily sourced from the hang glider. It’s actually coming from your imagination.

Let’s have a look at the opposite.

If your terrified, I get that. However what I’ll say is, “Okay you’re not dead yet” (save the terror part for later on). If you’re terrified by looking down from the hand glider and imagining what’s going to happen, then once again your imagination is the thing that’s creating the feeling.

Your imagination has run away with itself to the point where the hang glider folds its wings up and drops like a rock, and you hit the deck, and you get splattered. And you wouldn’t be scared unless you’re imagining something like that.

But think about it from this point of view… why be terrified when that’s not happening yet?

How do we get to be terrified?

We go into the future… and our perception becomes our reality.

In other words – you’re really scared or you’re really delighted and feeling really liberated – and these very powerful feelings are based on what you imagine is about to happen.

If you’re feeling liberated, you’re imagining that you’re free.

Maybe you are free and maybe you’re not. We happen to live in a free country and you can go wherever you like and you don’t have to ask permission to cross the road. There’s nobody standing on the corner with a machine gun and you can wear what you like … and so it goes on.

So you’re in a free country.

But maybe you feel more free when you’re soaring on the breeze.

How come?

You’re letting your imagination set you free not the hang glider.

And the feeling terrified?

Well like I said, to be afraid of something you actually have to be in the future.

When somebody gets a big fat healthy eight foot long brown snake and pops it on the floor, if you feel scared, you’re imaging the thing has bitten you. However, that’s not what you’re thinking. You don’t sit there thinking, “I’m imagining being bitten by this snake”. You’re actually going straight into the terror.

You can’t be feeling that fear unless you’ve moved into the future.

All of that becomes fundamental when you look at it from this kind of perception and from another angle as well.

When the two year old says that there’s a scary monster outside, the real question is – is there or isn’t there a scary monster outside? Is there a monster or isn’t there one?

Now if I put my hand on her chest, I can feel her heart pounding like crazy, her breathing racing, her body temperature going up – she’s genuinely scared – but is there a monster outside or not?

The truth of it is – the answer for her is yes, and the answer for me is no.

So we’re having two completely different experiences.

And because she’s only two years old and she trusts me, I can rub my ‘magic’ hands and go through a ceremony where I banish all monsters from coming into her room and that allows her to feel safe and she can go off to sleep. (Because through that kind of magic we can make the monster go away.)

How do we actually make the monster go away?

Well we’re using our imagination again. It was our imagination that created the monster and it’s our imagination that makes the monster go away. We’re dramatically manipulating how we feel by referring to our feelings, rather than questioning them.

And how about this picture?

Here’s a pretty big dude. And if you think he looks pretty mean then I’m with you. The girl in that photo is about the same height as me – five foot eight. So this guy must be roughly six foot eight, or six foot nine – something really really big.

If you’ve got it in your subconscious that you’re scared of big people then you’re not necessarily going to feel really good around this guy, because he looks pretty threatening and he looks like he could carry it out whatever evil intention he might have.

Now he may have no evil intention. He may not be frowning at the camera, he may just be looking in that direction.

So, is that girl in that photograph having the same experience that we are when we look at this scary monster?

Obviously the answer is she’s not. She’s having a different experience to us, and she might actually know more of the truth than we do.

If you get that – if she’s not having the same experience as we are – then it follows that he’s actually neutral.

He’s not scary or safe for her, he’s doing neither of those things.

Therefore the truth is you are creating your experience when this guy’s around.

(RELATED: You Can Change How You Feel In An Instant)

If you get that, then you might want to know how we form these biases.

It boils down to is this…

Go back to the example of the big scary guy. If you had a scary experience with that big guy, then it’s likely for the rest of your life, big people will scare you. But if you have an experience with someone who is big and they looked after you, then the chances are a big person in the room is going to make you feel safe.

Here is a fundamental exercise that we take our coaches through:

Look around at the room you’re in right now and see what’s there. I’m hoping that somewhere in the room is a chair. Now there’s probably a table, there might be a TV, there’s probably windows, there could be lights, and there could be photographs on the wall, and maybe carpet on the floor, there’s a whole lot of things.

I want you to look at the chair and ask yourself what meaning does the chair have? Give yourself a minute to do that.

Now you might say the chair is good for sitting on. You might say the chair is great for relaxing. And in this chair I can curl up and I can read a book. Or in this chair I can sit at my desk and use my laptop. This chair keeps my bum off the ground. This chair is good for allowing me to be able to do something for a long time like watch television etc.

Next have a look at the light. What meaning does the light have?

What you might come to is that the light means you can be in a dark room without having it be dark. And the light means that I can read a book. And the light means that I can see who’s coming into the room and going out of the room, and where everything is. And I can find where my phone is. And I can do things because of the light. I might be able to write on a bit of paper, that kind of stuff.

Now we can keep doing this exercise around the room that you’re in. Just look at anything and ask yourself ‘What meaning does it have?’

Now ask yourself the next question… where did that meaning come from?

Go back to the chair. I’m going to suggest the chair has no meaning whatsoever. It’s actually a pile of sticks and leather put together, maybe its vinyl, and part of it may be metal, and it might have a reclining mechanism in it. It’s just a device that has vertical and horizontal surfaces, and it’s arranged in a certain way, and that’s all that it is.

So where do we get the meaning when we looked at it?

We go “that’s a chair.”

And we got that meaning by looking backwards. We got that meaning by looking into the past.

In other words, how do you know that’s a chair?

You know that’s a chair because you’ve seen other chairs. In other words, to work out what that chair is, you have to look backwards, you have to lean on your experience. And you don’t have to lean very hard to understand what a chair is… or what a coffee table is, or a light, or a light switch, a bit of carpet etc. It’s not hard to workout what function they serve in your life.

But I’m talking about the fact that we neglect to renew the experience.

We don’t have a totally new experience when we see a chair because it’s another visual that we’ve already seen.

In other words, our current moment, the moment that we live in, is coloured and shaped and modified by our past.

And we’re always referring to the past. It is very much like driving our car backwards down the road while we look in the rear vision mirror.

When we go back to the hang glider, and the big bloke, and the other things I’ve talked about with the rain, you’ll notice that you’re deciding if the rain is good or bad based on past experience.

Let’s have a look at another example:

When someone insults me, how do I not feel hurt by that?

In other words – how do I change my perception from being the participant (and feeling insulted) to something else?

First, I need to become the observer.

I need to observe that somebody said something and I had a pre-programmed reaction.

I need to ask myself “What am I feeling in terms of emotion? How do I feel at the moment?”

If you are experiencing strong emotion – (one of the big five being anger, sadness, fear, shame, or guilt) – the chances are you are in one of your ‘programs’ and you’re feeling something that comes from a long time ago.

When you’re having that strong feeling, rather than say to yourself “that asshole, what a bastard, how dare they say that to me”
, you need to say to yourself, “that’s neutral, how about I ask myself how I feel.”

If you can’t do that, you’re going to get straight back into the program.

I had a classic example recently. I was talking to somebody who I felt dismissed me. They waved their arms and I felt dismissed and I felt small, and I felt irrelevant. I felt that I was the guy who messed up and I need to fix up the mess I made, and that I was too much of a bother to be considered in the big picture of things.

When I actually talked to the person who did that, it turns out that was not what they were doing at all.

That was what I turned it into, because that came from my early life. And when my coach asked me how old I felt in that moment, the answer was, “About six.” My coach said, “Okay that’s going to be a coming from a predominant figure in your life. Mother, father, auntie, uncle, school teacher, somebody who dismissed you and it hurt, and you felt irrelevant and small and you turned the circumstances of today into that again.”

As soon as I could become the observer I was able to see the truth in what my coach was telling me. That’s the process.

It’s the number one thing to do: become the observer instead of the participant.

This means put yourself in the football stadium watching the game – not necessarily down on the field playing the game.

Next step is to ask “What is the truth now?”

And the truth about the chair, the truth about the light, the truth about the hang glider, the truth about that big guy, is that nothing has actually gone wrong at the moment, everything is actually neutral.

So we need to ask ourselves about what’s actually going on now.

We need to ask ourselves, “Am I all right, am I okay?” And you’ll find that actually you are. You’re not dying and there’s plenty of air, there’s plenty of water, plenty of food. You are actually okay at the moment.

Then we go to the next step – to suspend judgement.

In my example with the person who dismissed me last week – I suspended judgement (about them being rude and cranky). I could be wrong about how I interpreted what they said, and all I needed to do is suspend judgement long enough to understand I could be wrong.

Not I am wrong, not I must be wrong, but I could be wrong, and I should look at this from every possible perspective. One of those would be to ask that person to reveal their experience to me.

That boils down to saying, “I feel really hurt, I’m not blaming you for what you said, I realise I’m actually okay but I feel hurt. I could be wrong about what you said so could you tell me where you were coming from?”

That would have allowed me to understand that they were under enormous pressure and they thought they were helping me by guiding me to the next task so that I could be getting on with that, instead of feeling useless.

And the whole thing resolved itself.

When I suspending judgement long enough I was able to feel helped and considered instead of my initial response of hurt (from my past experiences).

If you’re going to change perceptions, which ones would you change?

What perception would you change if you could?

I suggest that most of us have got a litany of these things: money’s hard to make, relationships are difficult, health – you’ve always got to be working on it, you’ve got to talk positively, something always goes wrong, flat tyres come in threes – we’ve all got a bunch of perceptions that are just ludicrous.

So if you’re going to change perceptions, which ones would it be good for you to change?

And if you are going to do that, what would it be healthy for you to change your perception into?

It might be: I’ve got more time than I need, I’ve got more money than I need, money is easy to make, time is easy to find, I’m always able to get what I need, there’s always ‘me’ time, health is easy all I’ve got to do is eat healthy and exercise…

Then real question is when are you going to do that?

When are you going to change those perceptions?

The great thing about changing perceptions is you can do it in 10 seconds. And none of those seconds would be wasted.

What would I choose to feel in place of that?

If we go back to the hang glider, you can say, “Okay do I want to change it?” You’ll probably say no, it’s not really necessary, I’ll get through the rest of my life without stepping into a hang glider.

But if you were going to change that perception, what would you want to change it to?

You might just say, “Okay let’s change it into an adventure or let’s change it into something I can do once to say I’ve done it.” When will I do that?

I’m going to suggest to you that the answer is as soon as you can organise to get a ride in a hang glider.

What would I choose to feel? Well maybe you could choose to feel liberated, or choose to feel free, or choose to feel excited, or choose to feel that you might be very close to death but you’re not dead yet! There’s a whole range of things that you can feel.

But choosing to feel is a critically important thing.

So try changing direction.

You can choose a feeling as soon as you’re willing to let go of the one that comes to you automatically.

And that turns you from a victim into a master.