A Blog post
The Power of Perceptions
- Apr 10, 2015
- Jared Wells
- In General Education
- 0 Comments
One of the most important factors in student success lies in the student's perceptions. Imagine two people who are going to run a race in three months. One thinks that running is stupid, that the race is too difficult, and thinks about how sore she will be after running. Running is one of the last things this person wants to do. The other person is excited about the challenge of the race and is not only interested in winning but beating her personal best time. This person is interested in what it takes to run as efficiently as possible and thinks about the health benefits of getting into shape. If this was all you knew about the two runners, who would you bet on in the race? Our perceptions are very powerful and to a large degree determine our success and happiness in life. So how do we help our children to shape more positive perceptions? Well, as a father of two small children, I know that just getting them to listen to us is hard enough. Largely parenthood seems to come down to keeping them safe, planting the right seeds, and hoping they take root. So instead of giving you advice about how you can change your children’s perceptions, how about we take a look at your own? Perhaps you can better support your children in turning their challenges into opportunities by taking a look at some of your challenges. Here is a little known fact about life: you have a great amount of control over your perceptions. Your perceptions are your own and they shape your effectiveness in the world. Your perceptions profoundly influence your chances of success as you define it. Changing Perceptions and Judgments Questions engage intelligence and shape your perception of reality. Ever ask a question on one day and remember the answer on another day? Picture two people having a conversation about the movie Mission Impossible. One is so sure that the other is wrong that she bets him twenty dollars. But she doesn't remember who is in the movie so she just forgets about it. (Remember the days before smart phones?) Three days later she is driving to work and the answer pops into her head. Tom Cruise was in Mission Impossible! She is so excited that she pulls over, finds a pay phone, pages her friend, waits for the return call, and then tells her friend to pay up! (Remember how ridiculous life was before cell phones!) Ever have an experience like this? Not the pay phone, the remembering. Ever ask a question about something one day and have the answer pop into your head days later? I bet you have. This provides important insight into how we can shape our perceptions. Your mind looks for the answers to the questions you ask, even if you are unaware that your mind is looking. Ask with sincerity, "Who was in Mission Impossible?", and your subconscious mind continues to search for clues. Perhaps it was a Disney Cruise Line billboard she passed by that triggered her memory. Perhaps she didn't even consciously notice the sign. Questions are like fish hooks. Bait the hook well and cast it into the water is the most important part of catching the fish. (This is an important insight into effective study skills. Questions are the key!) So what happens when you ask the question “Why is ________ such a drag?” Insert your most dreaded activity. What have we baited the mind into looking for? Your mind is going to look for the answers to your question, “Why is ________ such a drag.” I bet your mind comes up with a lot of great answers. "This is a drag because....." "I really hate it because...." "I'd rather light my hair on fire than _______ because......." And you don’t have to have an immediate answer. Your mind will connect with answers over time, often while you are dealing with the thing you are trying to avoid. If you believe it’s a drag, then I guarantee that it will be a drag and you won’t end up with the results you would like. Is this what you want for yourself? Do you want to dislike it? Do you want to fail to do your best? If you want better results, then asking different question can really help. You can provide your mind with something more positive to look for. What if you asked different questions. “What’s interesting about ________?” “What’s enjoyable about the challenge of ____________?” "How is ___________ like a worthy competitor in games and sports which I have enjoyed in the past?" It’s ok if you don’t have immediate answers. Remember that if you ask the right questions, and if you are open to new possibilities, then your mind will seek out much more useful answers. Learn to apply this in your own life and you’ll be more effective in supporting others, including your children. Changing Perceptions Exercise Get out a piece of paper. Look at the two tiles at the top of this post. I want you to estimate the difference in color between the top and bottom tiles. If perfect black is a 1 and if perfect white is a 10, then what number would you assign the top tile? Write it down. What number would you assign the bottom tile? Write it down. Are your numbers different? By how much? What if I told you that the two colors are exactly the same? Don't believe me? Hold your pinky finger across the dividing line between the two tiles. What do you notice? If you are like me, then you are pretty surprised by your changing perceptions. So how does this reconcile with my earlier statement that we largely control our perceptions? It doesn't seem that we have much control in seeing these colors as the same, they just look different. So how are we in control? We are in control in that we can shape our perception by understanding how our mind works and then choosing to do something to alter our perception. In this activity, you chose to put finger between the two tiles. This is an important point. We are not saying that our perceptions are unreasonable. We are not saying that you should not have the perceptions that you have. The questions is, "How are your perceptions working for you?" If they are not working for you, then perhaps it would be good news to know that you can shape them. Exercise: Think about something that you choose to do on a regular basis that you really don't enjoy. Yearly taxes, folding the laundry, going to the DMV, etc. Something that you have to do at least once a year. Consider the following questions. What is the thing? What are my current perceptions about this? Are these perceptions working for me? What do I want for myself? What perceptions would be more helpful? What questions could I ask to begin to shape my perceptions and experience? That's it. If I ask them questions with sincerity, then it's ok that I don't have the answers. The key is that I'm recognizing that my current perceptions are not working for me and that I am open to changing them. Give the mind the questions and it does the work. Here is an example: The Thing: "Doing taxes." What are my current perceptions about this? "I hate preparing my taxes because it feels like a waste of time. Doing taxes is a drag because every year I feel stressed out getting all the data ready for the accountant. I hate doing taxes because I'm self-employed and sometimes I don't know if I'm going to owe more than I have allocated for taxes. I don't like all the waste in government and hate to see my hard earned money being spent on things I don't believe in." Are these perceptions working for me? "No. I hate the experience, I avoid and procrastinate every year. This causes me stress and I end up paying more than I need to by not getting credit for all my deductions or by having to pay someone else to help me get it all done at the last minute. What do I want for myself? "I'd like preparing my tax returns to be less painful. I'd like to be more on top of them each year so that I stressed less. I'd like to save time and money by keeping on top of the taxes year round." What perceptions would be more helpful? "I'd like for taxes to be less painful. If I were to stretch, I would like to enjoy doing them. I'd like to feel good about keeping on top of taxes year round. I'd like to see the positive that my tax dollars contribute to." What questions could I ask to begin to shape my perceptions and experience? How can I turn keeping on top of my tax data year round as a game? What do I enjoy about really challenging games? How can I make taxes like one of these games? I'm really good at seeing the negative in government, where do I see positive impacts of government which is made possible through taxes?
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