We sometimes perceive things that are not really true. This occurs when we attach additional meaning to something that is said or done that is not based on fact. There are some examples where perception can be a good thing like offering a word of encouragement to someone that we perceive is feeling down or avoiding a dangerous situation because we perceive it might cause us harm. Yet, there are times when perception leads us to assume the wrong things about someone’s motives or actions and keep us from thinking the best about a person or situation.
We have to be careful to separate perception from reality and think critically every time we experience a perception, discerning whether it is true and real or not. I see the ill effects of perceptions in my work with elite athletes where they let their perceptions guide actions and even worse, dictate their outcomes. This happens when they allow a wrong or misinformed perception to develop into a misguided perspective leading to an unfortunate reality.
I remember I was working with a high school golfer who was debriefing a recent round with me. This very good golfer told me that he hit a shot off the tee into the woods and then tried to aggressively get out of the woods with his next shot only to have it hit the trees leading to a double bogey on the hole. He then proceeded to tell me that his round was over and was all downhill from there. When I asked him what hole this occurred on, he informed me that it was the 2nd hole.
In this moment, he allowed a real situation – not scoring his best on a hole – to become a perception that his round was over and that he would never catch up to the other players in the round, therefore leading to more bad shots and holes. His misguided perception led to a misinformed perspective which spiraled down into an unfortunate round of golf, which could have been avoided by questioning his initial perception in the moment.
I have also seen this occur in other areas of life including work, home, and communities. We often receive what we perceive as “truth” instead of dealing in facts and reality. When we allow a bad perception to become a truth or reality in our lives, it limits us from maximizing our potential and achieving our goals. We box ourselves into a false mindset which leads to tentative or passive behaviors that result in outcomes that are less than optimal and become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Breaking the cycle of a bad perception or perspective is essential to having a growth mindset and becoming who you were meant to be. But, how do you do that? Here are several things that you can do to create breakthrough moments and avoid allowing a misguided mindset to dictate your reality:
- Question the Perception – Any time you have a perception about a person or a situation, question it first by asking: Is my perception about this really true? Discern fact from fiction or your perceived meaning that you may be adding to the situation. While the gift of discernment can be a very good thing almost like Spiderman’s “Spidy Sense,” I think it is always good to analyze the facts and question whether they are real or not and what conclusion they lead you to.
- Discern the Truth – Once you have questioned the perception, it is important to discover and discern the truth about a given situation or person. Are your teammates really mad at you and consider you a failure about not coming through in the clutch, or are they just upset that the team did not win knowing you gave your best? Maybe, your kids and co-workers are really listening to every bit of wisdom you are sharing with them! One of the best ways to discern the truth is beginning with a mindset that believes the best about people. This starting point allows you to more accurately seek the truth in every situation and avoid misleading assumptions.
- Break the Cycle – Break the cycle of buying in to bad perceptions by replacing the perception with statements of truth about you, your strengths, your past accomplishments, and the opportunities that are in front of you.
- Develop a Growth Mindset – Replace your problematic mindset with a possibility mindset. Think in terms of what’s possible, not your perception about what is not. Developing a growth mindset is a process and depends on your determination to unlearn bad habits and negative thoughts, and replace them with new thoughts that lead to growth and grit.
Don’t allow perceptions to limit your possibilities. Unleash your potential in all areas of your life, and create a reality that you can be proud of and that makes a positive difference within your sphere of influence!
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