You Do Not See Things as They Are; You See Them as You Are

field of grassA field of grass is given its   character, essentially, by those experiences which happen over and over   again–millions of times. The germination of the grass seed, the blowing wind,   the flowering of the grass, the hatching of insects, being beaten down by   thunderstorms, the paths made by animals and hikers, and so on. It is a whole   system of interdependent events that determine the nature of the field of   grass.

It is also roughly true that the   nature of our beliefs and perceptions are interpreted from our experiences.   The field of grass cannot change its character. Grass cannot interpret and   shape its experiences to create a different nature. However, we are not a   field of grass. We can choose to interpret our experiences in any way we   wish. You know as well as I do that few of us are even aware of what this   means.

               (*-*)   AAA (00) I 000000 I ^–^ I – – _ – – _ I

Look at the six designs above. Assign   a label to each of them by selecting one of the following words:   “Indians,” “piggy nose,” “shy kitty,”   “woman,” “sleeper,” and “bathroom.”

Now that you’ve assigned labels to the   designs, ask yourself: “Why is this so easy to do?” For example, if   you labeled AAA as “Indians,” then how does an Indian village with   its ponies, tents, campfires, etc. fit so comfortably into three letters? The   symbols have no meaning. We give them meaning by how we choose to interpret   them. You have the freedom to select any meaning for any experience instead   of being a victim who must assign one and only one meaning to each   experience.

We automatically interpret all of our   experiences without realizing it. Are they good experiences, bad ones, what   do they mean and so on? We do this without much thought, if any, to what the   interpretations mean. For instance, if a woman bumps into you, you wonder   why. The event of her bumping into you is neutral in itself. It has no   meaning. It’s your interpretation of the bumping that gives it meaning, and   this meaning shapes your perception of the experience.

You may interpret the “bump”   as rude or deliberately aggressive behavior. Or you may feel you are of such   little significance that you are deliberately unnoticed and bumped around by   others. You may choose to use the experience as an example of feminist   aggression, or you may interpret the bump as her way of flirting with you.   Your interpretation of the experience determines your perception.

Think of roses and thorns. You can   complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have   roses. You can choose to interpret experiences any way you wish. It is not   the experience that determines who you are; it is your interpretation of the   experience. When IBM’s market experts looked at possible markets, they ruled   out computers for personal use. They believed there were no more than six   people on earth who had need of a personal computer. Bill Gates and Steve   Jobs looked at the same information and saw infinite possibilities for the   technology. You do not see things as they are; you see them as you are.

How you interpret experiences also   helps determine how you feel. While researching happiness and well-being,   Professor Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University, discovered that when he   asked college students if they were happy, most said yes. However, if he   first asked how many dates they had in the last month and then asked if they   were happy, most said no. Their interpretation of the questions determined   how they felt.

Your theory about the world is deduced   from your interpretations and beliefs. That theory then determines what you   observe in the world. At one time, ancient astronomers believed that the   heavens were eternal and made of ether. Their theory made it impossible for   them to observe meteors as burning stones from outer space. Although the   ancients witnessed meteor showers and found some on the ground, they couldn’t   recognize them as meteors from outer space. They only sought out and observed   only those things that confirmed their theory about the heavens.

We are like the ancient astronomers   and actively seek only the information that confirms our beliefs and theories   about ourselves and the world. Religious people see evidence of God’s   handiwork everywhere; whereas atheists see evidence that there is no God   anywhere. Conservatives see the evils of liberalism everywhere and liberals   see the evils of conservatism everywhere. Likewise, people who believe they   are creative see evidence of their creativity everywhere, and people who do   not believe they are creative see evidence everywhere that confirms their   negative belief. That which does not conform to our theories makes us feel   uncomfortable and confused. I’m reminded of a story told to me by “Black   Cloud,” my Lakota Sioux good friend, who heard the story from his   grandfather.

An old Sioux warrior had eight   magnificent horses. One night, during a great storm, they all escaped. The   other warriors came to comfort him. They said, “How unlucky you are. You   must be very angry to have lost your horses.”

“Why?” replied the warrior.

“Because you have lost all your   wealth. Now you have nothing,” they responded.

“How do you know?” he said.

The next day the eight horses returned   bringing with them twelve new stallions. The warriors returned and joyously   announced that now the old warrior must be very happy.

“Why?” was his response.

“Because now you are even richer   than before,” they responded.

“How do you know?” he again   responded.

The following morning, the warrior’s   young son got up early to break in the new horses. He was thrown and broke   both his legs. The warriors came once more, and talked with the old warrior   about how angry he must be at his misfortune and how terrible it was for his   son to break both legs.

“How do you know?” the   warrior said once more.

Two weeks passed. Then the chief   announced that all able-bodied men and boys must join a war party to fight   against a neighboring tribe. The Lakotas won but at great cost as many men   and young boys were killed. When the remaining warriors returned, they told   the old warrior that it was lucky his son had two broken legs, otherwise he   could have been killed or injured in the great battle.”

“How do you know?” he said.



  1. I have realized some important matters through your website post. One other thing I would like to express is that there are numerous games available and which are designed in particular for preschool age youngsters. They include things like pattern acceptance, colors, pets, and shapes. These generally focus on familiarization rather than memorization. This will keep children engaged without experiencing like they are studying. Thanks

  2. Not clear on what you have got in mind, Laila. Can you give us some more information?

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