“We take a handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and call that handful of sand the world.” – Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.


Quick Takes:

  • Everybody has a unique perception of the world.
  • Perception is reality, so everybody has a unique understanding of reality.
  • Always make sure you are aware of someone’s reality when you interact with them.
  • Even more powerful, by changing your unique perception, you have the ability to change your reality.

Reality is weird. Like, really weird. Weirder and more confusing than any sort of fantasy you can dream up. I mean, who needs a fantasy when you live in one?

UnknownWhat makes reality a confusing fantasy is that it’s different for everyone. There is no one reality in which everyone resides. My reality is uniquely different from your reality, which causes us to interpret the same experiences completely different. In turn, our unique interpretations of the same experiences cause our realities to become even more different.

As Robert M. Pirisig wrote: “We were both looking at the same thing, seeing the same thing, talking about the same thing, thinking about the same thing, except he was looking, seeing, talking, and thinking from a completely different dimension.” 

Our own perceptions of the world really do shape our own realities. Steven Covey refers to this phenomenon of unique perceptions as “paradigms” through which we view life.

Our perception paradigms are the lenses through which each of us see the world, he says. A “map”, where, like roads and roadblocks, all of our life experiences occur. We can change the road we are taking, but we can’t change the map we are navigating without changing our perception.

By comparing our perceptions to a map, Covey brings to light a very important point about our realities. Much like two people reading different maps but trying to get to the same place, trying to understand someone through your own perception can lead to confusion, misunderstanding, and often times a lack of direction.

You wouldn’t try to translate a Russian book with the French alphabet. But when we assume that others share our perception, that’s what we’re doing.

“This is the source of the trouble. People tend to think and feel exclusively in one way or another and in doing so tend to misunderstand and underestimate what the other way is all about. But no one is willing to give up the truth as he sees it, as far as I know.” – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Unknown.2There is power in perception, however. Much like updating a map given new information, we have the ability to change our own perception. Instead of looking at the world around us through the lens of our perception, greater understanding comes from looking at the world through the lens of others’ perceptions. This way, you see truth as you wish to see it but you also see truth as others see it, and since perception is reality, you see the full truth.

And therefore, if perception is reality, and we have the ability to change our perception, we have the ability to change our reality.

This is where the ultimate power lies. When we realize that our reality is controlled by us, and no one else, our perception zooms out from a street view to a map of the world. We control our likes and dislikes, our problems and solutions, our friends and foes, our positivity and negativity, and ultimately our happiness and satisfaction.

So moving forward, try and change your perception. Rather than assuming everyone views things the way you do, assume they don’t. Look through the lens of others and try to see the map of life that they’re reading. You don’t have to give up your perception of reality, but by expanding your perception to include the views of others, you broaden your perception of reality.

Reality may be fantasy, but a broader understanding of it can’t be a bad thing.