I just listened to a Tedx Conference video by Rory Sutherland that harked on something I believe in strongly. Sutherland is an advertiser but his talk was about how our perceptions frame our reality. In 18 short minutes he is able to entertain, make you laugh and make you think about things. His basic premise is summarized (probably badly by me) in these two sentences:
- Things are not what they are; they are what we think they are
- Things are what we compare them to
His idea is this: depending on how we frame things, our perceptions really change the thing. In his words “our impressions have an insane impact on how we see and think…” So we put context (or framing) into everyday situations all of the time. And that context can be really good for us. Or really bad. Most importantly, if we can be aware of our framing, we can alter the “reality” that we have created.
The challenge in everyday life becomes balancing the technology, the economics and the psychology of a situation. All three might play a part, but too often we only rely on one or two of them. For instance, he notes that most business decisions are made with a ROI or profit or financial implication. But rarely are the psychological impacts considered. That is why the Law of Unintended Consequences is so powerful and omnipresent. For a positive example, he uses the London subway adding LCD screens that tell you how long it will be until a train will arrive. From a purely economic perspective, there is no “financial value” to the signs. But from a psychological point of view, there is immense value. Knowing that a train will arrive in “7 minutes” is very comforting to us compared to “having no idea when a train will arrive, even if it is only 4 minutes away”. The “not knowing” is very disconcerting to us. Our frame of reference is very negative in the second case (maybe the train will never arrive, I will be late, I will miss my connection). But in the former, we know it will only be a few minutes, thus allowing us to relax.
This video came along at the same time as I am starting to read a book called “The Law of Divine Compensation” by Marianne Williamson. They fit together. While Ms. Williamson’s style is a little over the top for me, her ideas are interesting. She believes that the universe is set up to work on our behalf. How we wish to think about our lives is up to us. We can be negative – and expect negative things to happen. Or we can be positive and open – and we will generally find happiness. She says “No matter what is happening in our lives, we choose how we wish to think about it.” She goes on to say “how we think releases an infinite number of possibilities that could have not occurred had we not believed that they were possible. Such is the power of our thoughts to attract as well as deflect miraculous breakthroughs.” (so the “miraculous breakthroughs” may be a bit much).
We have all been around people who are negative – and things never work out for them. I guarantee all of us have NOT done something because of fear – pursue that new job, pursue that person, try something new. We were not open to the positive possibilities. On the other hand, perhaps you have done something you never thought you could do (run a certain distance, or lose weight or find a spouse) because you were OPEN to the possibilities.
“With every thought we think we either summon or block a miracle”