Want to be smarter, faster and better? Recalibrate your perception

Perception influences reality.

The way you think about, interpret or understand someone is unique to you. Your perception today is determined by your past experiences, values, beliefs, and personality.

Once you get used to the same reality in life, most things become automatic and unconscious— information arrives in your brain, it gets interpreted, you make judgments and decisions before you even know it.

Like an optical illusion, our mind always attempts to fill in the details of the obvious— it either thinks it already knows or relies on related narratives.

Douglas Adams once observed, “Everything you see or hear or experience in any way at all is specific to you. You create a universe by perceiving it, so everything in the universe you perceive is specific to you.”

In short, your perception is your reality — the way you see the world. It’s the lens each of us uses to understand everyone and everything.

Being is seeing — and what we see is highly related to what we are.

But that reality can be very limiting and recalibrating (changing) those views of yourself, and the world can do wonders for your life and happiness.

It’s like interpreting a piece of art. What you see will be very different from what an expert sees — even though you are both looking at the same thing.

When you get locked into a single view of the world, you can get stuck in the same routines, ideas, models, and you lose sight of different or even better perception that can things better or quicker.

Recalibrating your perception can help you keep an open mind, be optimistic and realize that however much we see, there is always more to the picture than just the painting, depending on the audience.

Improving and expanding your perception can also help you make better choices, solve problems quicker, work smarter, negotiate better, and even be happier.

The key to major improvements in life and career comes from shifting our paradigm. If you expect to make major changes, you need to shift the way you look at things.

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr Stephen R. Covey talks about how to make a paradigm shift to improve our outlook and life.

Covey explains that if you are looking for a building in New York, but you’ve got a map of Detroit (but don’t know it), you will certainly fail to find what you are looking for, no matter how hard you try — If your map is wrong, you are almost certainly going to fail.

“The way we see the problem is the problem,” Covey writes.

To achieve life-changing change, we must allow ourselves to undergo paradigm shifts — to change ourselves fundamentally and not just alter our attitudes and behaviors on the surface.

In the words of Thoreau, “For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root.” We can only achieve quantum improvements in our lives when we work on the root, the paradigms from which our attitudes and behaviors flow.

You can’t perceive much more of the world than you already know and do. You only perceive what you really need in order to survive.

Your perception of the world limits your cognitive ability because you weigh your views more important than others — you disregard most things you don’t agree with, and look for perceptions that confirm your beliefs, and feels comfortable.

Timothy Wilson, a psychologist at the University of Virginia and author of Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Chance, explains

A lot of this happens unconsciously. We don’t know how much we’re interpreting. The world presents itself like it’s a reality and we don’t know how much we’ve already filtered that. There’s a psychologist name Lee Brosan who calls this naive realism. We perceive the world as real, but we’re doing a lot of spinning as the information comes in. He talks about it as a real impediment when we’re in an argument because each person sees the world as real and thinks the other must be crazy or deliberately trying to destroy things when in fact they’re just trying to bring their own expectations and facts to the table.

If you talk to the same people, stick to the same routine for too long, watch the same movies, listen to the same music, read the same news outlet, never pause to look around, take a break from your routines, or walk another path, your brain won’t be able to add options to its interpretation of the real world.

“…the best way to rethink something we’ve been doing for years — the way we do our jobs, the way we interact with others, the way we see the world — is to step outside of ourselves, and outside of our comfort zone,” writes Amy E. Herman, in her book, Visual Intelligence: Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life.

Focus your perception on creating a new reality

The good news is perception is not permanent. You can expand your views, beliefs, and knowledge to improve your lens.

You can pause before you say what your brain considers to be the most obvious thing to say or do. You can consciously override the first impulse of what to do and consider other options.

Recognizing your own limits is the first step to improving your perception.

Once you know your cognitive shortfalls, start paying attention to how you filter information around you — use every opportunity to diversify your views, ideas, and outcomes.

Re-train your perception by first becoming aware of where you need to stop and change it, then pause to gain time to look at things from different perspectives before you make conscious decisions.

Dr. Wayne Dyer once said, “When you change the way you look at things, what you look at changes!”

The unfortunate truth is that most people will not change the way they think, feel and act unless something forces them to do so. But real change that makes an impact in life happens by conscious choice.

Everything begins with a decision — decide now to be in charge of your own perception of reality. Perception is life-changing. How you perceive the world and the circumstances that appear in your life matters.

It’s not what happens or who appears in your life that matters, but how you interpret and consciously act or subconsciously react to everything.

Choose to expand your reality to become better, faster, and smarter.

This article first appeared on Medium.