Today’s topic on Day 90 of our 100 Day Personal Performance and Business Growth Challenge is one of my favorites. Every Sunday, my wife and I spend time, either right when we wake up or any other time we agree upon (during the drive back home today, for example), we spend time discussing what the number one lesson we learned that week about relationships. We always share about the most important lesson that we learned on the topic of relationships.
This week, one of the things I had to share with my wife during our discussion on the topic was the concept of the situations that happen and then there’s the story in our minds about the situation that just happened.
What I found is, the situation that happened can be painful, frustrating, upsetting, and hurtful or whatever you want to call it. But, in reality, what really messes with us emotionally is the story we have about the situation.
And so I looked at the concept of “the story” and said this is interesting. I said let’s break up the story into its components and there’s really three pieces of a story. If you take a situation that is frustrating you or has frustrated you in the past, the first component of that situation are the actual facts of what happened.
For instance, someone walked by and punched me in the shoulder. The first part is the fact that someone’s fist made contact with my shoulder and it hurt.
The second part of the story is the emotion that I am about to link to the facts of what happened. Isn’t it true that someone in your life could walk up to you and punch you on the shoulder, and you would react with excitement because that is your best friend? On the other hand, is there a chance that the exact same person could walk into the room, do the exact same thing, with the exact same look on their face, with the exact same energy and you respond, “Hey, what are you doing? Why would you do something like that? What’s wrong with you?”
Is it possible that the same person does the same thing in a different moment and your reaction is totally different to the first reaction described? The difference is the emotion you are linking to what just happened (the fact). These emotions are totally based on how you are feeling in the moment when your friend does what he or she does.
What I mean by how you are feeling in the moment is, are you at your best self, are you your average self or are you your worst self. So the emotion ascribed is being filtered based on what state you are in, meaning did you sleep well, are you well fed, did you meditate, did you work out? Are you the happiest, healthiest, strongest and most fulfilled version of yourself?
The third part of your story is your filters. There’s a really great picture online when from the side, it looks like the guy is flipping someone off and from the front, it looks like he is acting really friendly with his buddy. So, depending on which side you are looking at that picture, it is determining your perception of what’s going on. This is one filter; what’s the angle from which you are looking at the situation? Are you looking at it from the left, the right, and the top or bottom side? How are you looking at the situation? This is one filter.
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Another filter is your triggers. What else has happened like this in your lifetime that is being triggered right now in your nervous system and your brain is going like “I know what this leads to!” and it is causing a chain reaction in your body that literally has nothing to do with this exact moment but instead has everything to do with what happened back then. It is some other situation you are reacting to, but that filter is now causing you to see this and making you go “Whoa, I know what this means!” So, the things that have happened in your past can cause you to respond differently to a situation in the present because you will base on the past to interpret the present and yet the two may be totally different.
Finally, the reference points, or who you have around you when a situation happens can also determine what you pay attention to, what information you are referencing at the back of your mind. Now, what’s wild is that when you take apart any situation that is taking place and the story you build around it, three things are going on in there. That is, the facts of what has happened, the emotion you attach to what has happened, the triggers (what’s happening around you, what similar thing happened in the past and the reference points or information that you pull up at that moment).
The reference points can be something you read, a course you attended or a friend told you something. So if you take apart any situation that is frustrating you, there’s a great scene in the movie Avengers when the Hulk is trying to get something from this lady and she hits him and she kind of knocks the spirit out of his body and in that moment, you see one element gets separated into two different pieces, that’s what happens during meditation. You realize that you are not you, and you instead become an observer of you, and you go “Wow, that’s interesting!”
It is like someone is freaking out, and then when they go higher and observe themselves, they realize, “That’s an interesting choice to freak out at this situation.” Well, number one, what are the facts of what happened? Number two, what are the emotions I am attaching to this? Am I at my best, average or worst? And how am I filtering this emotional information? And three, am I responding to the present reality or to a past trigger? Am I responding to the reality of it or to some past information connected to it? Am I responding to the reality or I am responding to my perception or angle of the reality?
When you ask yourself those questions, you will come to the realization that you could be reacting based on a trigger, a perception or some reference points instead of the facts. You could also realize that you are reacting the way you are because of your emotional situation at that time of being at your best, average or worst self instead of reacting based on the facts.
When you get back to the facts, most things aren’t that complicated, aren’t that hard and really truly aren’t as bad as they sound. Like, people freak out over stuff that in reality aren’t that big of a deal. You just have to deal with the facts instead of the triggers, the perception, and your emotional state and everything else it is coming with.
There’s another example. Most people make judgments over the story they have about someone instead of the actual experience they have with that person. Or, they make judgments about someone based on what another person has told them about that individual instead of their own personal experience with the person. In reality, what another person has experienced with someone isn’t the reality of their experience with that person. Rather, it is their story of the experience. It is the story the person created about the other person.
I just shared this on Facebook. There’s this group of kids who are playing the “telephone game” where they pass along a message. At the beginning, the message involves using gestures to show that you are angry and will kill someone, but by the time this message reaches the end, it has become “You have a very nice smile!” There are about 50 kids in this game and all of them are dying with laughter because the message ended up being changed so much that it was totally different from what it was at the beginning. All it took is a handful of people and the story fell apart and changed dramatically through the process.
And so this is a big piece to pay attention to in your life. I have learned that if I want to be happy, I have got to make sure that whenever I catch myself reacting to something, I am dealing with the facts of what was there and not my perception of what happened there and it is something that I can tangibly deal with in the moment.
When all of a sudden I am dealing with a story of and I am separating that from a different perspective, and I am not at my best self, and I am dealing with past triggers; at that point, it is nonsense like you’ve really created something that doesn’t exist, and especially if you are suffering over it, frustrated over it, hurt, disappointed or upset over it, you are allowing your emotions to be determined by the story of a perception of a trigger of a situation. Holy cow! Get back to the truth. Get back to reality, right here, right now.
Most of us spend a lot of time trying to distract ourselves from reality instead of diving deep into reality which is usually right in front of us all the time. Remember, always make a judgment based on the facts. And if you experience a fact that you think isn’t for you, move on. If you experience a fact that is for you, stick with it!
I am a big fan of what works; if it works for you, then keep doing it, but if it doesn’t, leave it and move on. And, I am not a big fan of people who spend a lot of time not realizing (and it isn’t their fault, they just don’t have this concept of thinking through things in this way) the piece is, they are at their worst self, they make a judgment based on a past trigger of a thing that really happened, then they get really hurt and frustrated and upset about it, and then they make it their point to convince others of this. And you are watching, and you go “Wow, now people are making a judgment based on a story of a perception of a really worst-case scenario when someone is in their worst version of themselves, who is now telling that story and turning everything into a mess!”
I prefer to be a personal reference point. If I wasn’t there, and I don’t have in my best self a tangible experience with it, then I have no understanding and no opinion on what happened because I wasn’t there and didn’t experience it myself. If you know anyone who would benefit from this message, share it, and I will talk to you guys later!
To Your Success,