Ahead of an important series of meetings this week my client had been creating a fairly bleak reality.
He knew he would be spending a lot of time with a particularly difficult fellow and he imagined himself being frustrated for much of the week.
So I asked him: “Would you like to change your reality?” Confused, he said, “That’s the reality,” to which I replied, “No, it is what you have made it to be.”
OK. Now, look, here’s the thing about reality. There is no such thing! There is only your individual subjective perception of reality.
Is today hot or cold? Well, it all depends on whether you grew up in Antarctica or somewhere that isn’t freezing. Right? It is all relative to your experience of what is hot or cold.
The same is true for most everything in your life in that your perception of reality is simply the result of your experiences and thoughts.
To test your reality, you simply ask one question: How do you know?
So I asked my client, how do you know this fellow is particularly difficult?
He scoffed, “Well, because he is always that way.” “Always?” I asked.
Quickly he recalled that actually the last time he was with this fellow, he was quite pleasant.
So, having gotten him to change his reality and begin to think perhaps this time too he will be quite pleasant, I went back to the second argument in his original statement.
I picked up on his cause and effect relationships that: Being with a difficult person would make him frustrated.
I asked him, “How do you know that being with someone difficult will make you frustrated? Are you the sort of person who lets how other people behave affect how you feel?”
He responded, “Well sometimes.” So I asked him, “Can you think of a time when you were with someone who was difficult but you were still having a great time?” After close to two decades of being a parent, he agreed he had plenty of examples!
So I asked him, “If time with this fellow is as pleasant as last time and irrespective of how someone else is behaving you know you can feel great, can you imagine how this week might feel different to how it did before?”
Of course his reality had changed. Not because anything “factual” had changed, but because he began to look at things differently.
And what is the benefit? He feels much better about the week ahead, he will much more enjoy his week, and seeing him differently he will most certainly be far more effective with this other fellow.
So, next time you hear, “That’s the reality,” ask, “How do you know?”