Perception is Powerful

I was in the car zoning out as I drove early one morning when I heard something that brought my attention back to the present moment: a short news story on the “Remarkable Rarities & Gangsters” auction held in Boston on September 21. Unless you’re a real history buff or a fan of a particular historical figure or event, I don’t think most people follow auctions. But there was something about the way this particular auction was being discussed. It was less about the history and more about the perception of each artifact, specifically as it related to Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.

During the short news segment, one of the curators explained that this auction appealed to the general public not only because of the romanticized gangster era, but because of the tangible items you can hold on to from historical people of the past.

Consider this: one of the items auctioned was an 85-year old letter written by Bonnie Parker and signed by Clyde Barrow. The curator explained, “in 100 years, will people try to auction off someone’s Instagram account? Probably not, and if so, it certainly won’t hold the same value or appeal as a tangible letter written and signed by historical figures.”

I agree, to a point. Life is really all about perception and not just how we perceive things, but how we want others to perceive us, as well. Think about how you get yourself ready to leave the house. Does your routine change when you’re getting dressed for work vs. getting ready to go out with friends? Most likely, the answer is yes. Your wardrobe is likely different, as is your attitude, which is strongly reflected in your appearance (whether intentional or not).

Consider how you perceive not only yourself, but your world, and how others perceive you based on your actions. Is their perception accurate? Moreover, is this who you really are? Is it one they’ve invented based on other factors, similar to how we’ve romanticized various times in our history?

If you haven’t heard of it, consider looking up the powerful essay by MacArthur Genius award winner George Saunders, The Braindead Megaphone. Here’s the gist: just because someone has a megaphone doesn’t mean they have anything accurate or important to say. It is the same with perception. It may be loud, but it may not be important, true or worth our attention. Know what is true and what is perceived.

Take Action
We talk a lot about paying attention on purpose to you and to your world. They have information for you to use to determine how to connect the two. Make a point of tuning in for facts and meaningful information so you can make an intentional decision about how you perceive your world.

Consider asking yourself these questions:

  1. Where do you get your news from?
  2. Who has an impact on forming your thoughts and beliefs (family, friends, colleagues, boss, celebrity, etc.)?
  3. Who could you be impacting with your own thoughts and beliefs?
  4. Is your impact on others and your world the one you want to be making? It is affected by others’ perception of you?

Remember the power of perception and remember when it is just loud yack. Distinguish between meaningful and meaningless information. The quality of your decisions depends on it.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Pay Attention

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