The activities we tend to take part in have a tendency to be influenced by how we see things in life. We will opt to do things because according to us those things are good. We will do certain things simply because they will make us gain something, make us be recognized, make us happy and fulfilled. It is therefore important to trace and find out what really is shaping our ownperceptions which in turn become the paint brushes we use to color our world. You and I can
both look at one thing and come up with different analysis and conclusions. It is the conclusions we make that then influence the recommendations and decisions or pathways we take. We have missed a lot of opportunities in life owing to our mindset. If you carry a hyena’s imagination, you will never see goats as business partners but prey. We miss the point in life because of our perceptions and nature of our appetites.
- Our experiences – I grew up in a rural village, most people do not believe it today. The wisdom I had for the better part of my life was obtained through experiences, herding cattle, hunting for game meat, swimming in ponds along the Lundi River, fist fights with boys out in the bushes and sitting around a plate of food to do some team-work on one plate available for 6 or so young boys. When I moved from the village I continued to see things in life using the “village lens”. I judged character, I made my own assumptions based on what I experienced earlier in life. Exposure is important – you can never go past your level of exposure in life.
- Our memories – The mind is a sponge which absorbs and stores memories for the longest time possible. Such memories can be painful or joyous. When someone treats me in a certain manner today, my mind stores that treatment and over time I will retrieve from memory and almost feel the excitement or pain I felt at one point. My perception of who the person can be to me is therefore based on the memories I have created with them. If they treated me badly at one point, I am likely going to keep them at a distance because to me, they are a source of bad experiences.
- Our Beliefs – We are what we believe. We promote what we believe in, we act in accordance with our belief systems. Our actions formulate our habitual life, those things we do without even thinking and as you know, habits are building blocks for lifestyles. I grew up under the Christian faith. I therefore use my beliefs as a barometer for character. My beliefs are so much inside me and therefore I have buckets of “right” things and buckets of “wrong” things that I should not do. It is unfortunate that our belief systems may cause us not to perceive anyone who thinks differently as a good person. As a matured individual, I can now listen to people of a different faith from mine as I have come to accept that there are elements in other religions that are good.
- Situations Around us – Sometimes it is not what we personally experienced but what other people experienced that determines how we see things. We develop prejudices of certain races because of situations we have seen their fellows in. I am sure you have heard it many times when people say “People from such and such a country are thieves”. This is because we hear, we read and therefore conclude based on the multiple occurrences of situations that indeed this tribe or race is full of thieves. It may not necessarily be true but because of such situations we trade cautiously when we meet people whose perception we have already formulated.
- Our Associations – You at the sum total of people you hang around with. They could be friends or family members. Have you ever noticed that a team of five friends will almost react in the same manner to a situation simply because they have been around each other for that long. Whether we like it or not, perceptions rub off from and to those close to us. If someone who carries a significant office in your life (mentor, spouse etc) simply says “so and so is a bad person”, the first thing you do is believe them without questioning or doubting. I am now watchful in terms of who gets very close to me to the point of influencing my perception of what life is about.
- Our own Values – Our upbringing shapes our value systems. The values that our parents inculcate in us while we are young tend to stay with us for our entire lives. It is these same values that shape what we can or can not do. We tend to therefore judge others using our own values as a benchmark. We see those who value other things as either bad people, not so serious people, not competent and so on. I value my time a lot. To that end I will do all I can to ensure that I am on time. Anyone who arrives late for an appointment with me does not get a pat on the back but gets to know immediately. I am now working on at least accommodating explanations and not paint all late-comers with the same brush.
- Images and Sounds – by this I am simply referring to what we see and hear. We have to be watchful of what enters the gate to the mind (eyes and ears). The frequencies we have around us are all clamoring for our attention. What you hear over and over again you will soon believe it to be true. That is the power of repetition. It alters our perceptions. Whatever used to be absurd at one point can soon become normal to the point that we miss it when it is not there no matter how wrong it is. Our minds begin to shape a new normal because they remain the factories of our lives. Subliminal messages are all over the songs and soapies we watch. Movie and music producers know the power behind the sounds and images and they will use it to alter our perceptions. I have seen beer advertisements that make you crave a beer even though you don’t drink. It is depicted as a soothing, cool, thirst quencher and something of a lifestyle nature.
As you can see, perceptions are critical. I leave you with these questions. How many times have we seen other people as “soul mates” because the hunter in us could not imagine otherwise when they were going to be our keys to financial freedom through proper business deals? How many former jail birds have we condemned to the dustbin simply because our eyes refuse to see them as reformed individuals but the judge in us says “he or she is finished”? How many young people have been ignored, their potential buried because the politician in us sees them as mere voters to keep us in power when they have ideas to change the world? Perception is a powerful force. Use it carefully.