Perception Matters

If you are pained by any external thing, it is not this thing that disturbs you, but your own judgment about it. And it is in your power to wipe out this judgment.

Marcus Aurelius

I say it all the time, and I’ll say it again.

  • Perception is everything.

It’s important to remember that Nature is indifferent to the human condition. Our roads will flood, some bridges will become impassable and our journeys in life will be forced to take several detours. That doesn’t mean Fortune is stacked against you. The universe, quite frankly, doesn’t care about you or me. Whatever Fortune decides to send your way is no more biased than the falling of the rain. People plot mischief, and Nature remains uninterested in the rise and fall of men.

That doesn’t mean we won’t experience setbacks and disappointments. It does mean that we need to take ownership of our perception of events. A flooded bridge is a flooded bridge. Floods happen. Your life isn’t over when disaster strikes. You have an opportunity to overcome this setback and find another path.

  • You can rebuild.
  • You can change your destination.
  • You can go fishing in the flood waters.

The point is an unpleasant event is just an unpleasant fact. It is our perception of how that event negatively impacts us that creates the additional and unnecessary pain that keeps us up at night. Our perception of the event can create more pain than the event itself.

Remember, your future is about as certain as the changing of the weather. That means there’s no benefit to living in fear or timidity by attempting to avoid something as uncertain as chance. Predicting the weather is always an educated guess and never perfect—just like our lives. We can forecast 100 days perfectly and still get Day 101 wrong.

Likewise, we can use our knowledge and experience to make the best decisions possible based on whatever information we have available. That’s really the best we can do. We need to accept that any plans for the future remain a gamble. There are no guarantees for what lies ahead tomorrow.

Your resilience will rely on your ability to discern between your perception regarding what has happened to you and the truth that sometimes stuff just happens. Don’t underestimate the power of your own judgments. Our opinions shape how we perceive ourselves, the world and the people around us.

When we make mental judgments we frame our viewpoint and limit it to a single perception—much like a framed photograph in a series. A single photo only has the power to show one angle of one camera’s viewpoint at a single second of time. That is not the entire story. We all know pictures can be misleading. Recognize that your perception of events will limit how you interact with obstacles.

Think about how we react when we receive unexpected and potentially damaging news in the workplace. If we react to that news with a judgment call—a negative mindset—we risk framing the situation and limiting our ability to see anything other than the negative repercussions we expect.

It may be true that the news you received will have immediate negative impacts to your organization. However, it’s also likely that there are just as many unseen opportunities for innovation that could create additional value from the same news. This will not negate the negative repercussions of the event itself, but if we approach unexpected news as negative, we risk limiting our ability to perceive anything but the disasters we anticipate.

Don’t let this happen to you. Bad news is just news. Use it. Review it. See it for what it is—just a change in your environment and an opportunity to take a different path.

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