Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Are you a victim of your own perspective?

By Emma Grey from WorkLifeBliss

There was news last week that a family who had lived through the ravages of last year's Queensland floods had won $5million in the lottery. This time last year, the newsagent where the ticket was bought was submerged.

What a difference a year makes. Bad things happen. Sometimes several bad things happen in a row. Good things happen. Sometimes great things happen.

Your house doesn't 'always' flood, and nor do you 'always' win the lotto. In reality, we have a mix of experiences - positive and negative - but we tend to pick a side and either focus on lows or highs.

It is said that we're bombarded with two million 'bits' of information at any one time. The conscious mind cannot hope to process a sensory load of this magnitude, so it triages the input - deleting much of it, distorting some and generalising a lot. This is why you and your sibling may have entirely different recollections of that family holiday when you were little.

In the end, you can comfortably manage about seven (plus or minus two) 'chunks' of information at any one time. There are times in life when we're dealing with more than this - like when we start a new job or course of study and we experience that steep learning curve. We're exhausted at first, from the juggling of more chunks of input than usual - and gradually, as we become more comfortable with it, we start chunking the information together.

Think back to when you first learnt to drive a car. All of your seven chunks were fully occupied in learning to drive - working out the gears, the pedals, the road rules, watching for other motorists, keeping an eye on the blind spot, listening to your instructor and obeying the speed limit.

If you've been driving for a while, you're probably only using one chunk to do all of that now - while you plan your shopping and talk to your passengers, listen to music, do your pelvic floor exercises ... you get the drift.

How we choose to fill our seven conscious chunks is enormously influential on how we experience our lives. Imagine you're heading into a job interview and filling your seven chunks with this:
• I hate interviews
• My clothes don't fit right today
• I didn't get enough sleep
• I never know how to answer the questions
• There's no way I'm going to get this job
• They've probably already given it to someone else
• Why doesn't anything work out for me!

Seven negative chunks, and it's not hard to predict the outcome.

If all of the experiences in your life - good and bad - were kept in a large, dark warehouse, and you got to go in there each morning wearing a miner's hat with a headlight on the front, and focus your light on something that would set the tone for the day - where would you focus?

Some people zoom in only on the corner of the warehouse where the 'failures' are kept. The pile of things than went wrong. The time the house was flooded. The jobs that fell through. The relationships that didn't work out. It's no wonder the story becomes 'nothing ever goes right for me'.

If you tilt your head slightly to the left, though, you may notice the times things went well, the time you won the lottery (if you're lucky!), the promotions you had, the relationships that brought you joy.

Turn your head again, and there's a pile of dreams for the future. Ambitions, hopes, plans...
It's up to you how you behave in your warehouse, how broad your view is and whether you choose to limit that view or not. You're at the mercy of your perspective on life and you can change your future because of this. One way or the other.

Emma Grey is a Life Balance specialist and runs WorkLifeBliss. Through a suite of innovative concepts and tools, Emma offers organisations and individuals practical solutions to the modern challenge of ‘having it all’.

Emma holds a BA (Hons), Graduate Diploma in Education and Advanced Practitioner certificates in Coaching, Training and NLP. She is a published author, speaker and freelance journalist. Her book, Wits End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum (Lothian, 2005), was reviewed as ‘fresh, witty, hilarious, sharply-observed and relentlessly truthful.’ Emma writes regularly on a range of social issues in the national media, including for Mia Freedman’s ‘Mamamia’, The Punch, Australian Women Online and HerCanberra. She is a mother of three and has two step-children. When she can sneak the time – she’s writing a vampire-free novel for young adults.

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