Improving daily life without changing your circumstances


04.02.16

[ Experience of Reality = (External Circumstances) X (Internal Perception) ]

If that equation holds roughly true, what contribution to your experience of daily life would you allocate to external circumstances vs internal perception: 50/50? 80/20? 20/80?

Keeping that split in mind, what percentage of your daily hours are you allocating to improving each? The answer is bound to surprise you.

Most of modern civilization is obsessed with changing external circumstances in order to improve our experience of reality. Thanks to that single minded focus I’m able to send you this electronic letter. However, the same tendency that has helped our species to survive and thrive keeps it in anxious dissatisfaction. On the one hand it quickly takes for granted improved external circumstances (I’m FLYING at 10,000 metres as I write this… yet not a hint of surprise on my mind). On the other hand it is constantly searching for threats in our environment.

Addressing this default state requires mental training of attention (what to focus on) and cultivation of wisdom (how to respond).

What tools do you have to daily adjust your moment to moment perception of external circumstances? Here are a few that have worked for me:

PRIMING (BEFORE)

In painting, a prime refers to “a substance used as a preparatory coat on wood, metal, or canvas”. Let us add “or on the mind”. In psychology priming refers to “an implicit memory effect in which exposure to one stimulus influences the response to another stimulus.” Some tried and true methods for practical priming to automatically direct attention to the better part of reality include:

– Morning rituals like counting your blessings

– Background listening of smart audiobooks while performing physical tasks like walking or washing my paintbrushes.

– Abundant sleep and frequent exercise, the lack resulting in a bias towards negative perception (snappy mood).

PRESENCE (DURING)

This is the holy grail. If you can shift your internal perception of reality moment to moment then there is little need for priming or later processing.

– Bodily awareness of sensations, from basic body scan to advanced vipassanna, is the only method I have found to be with pain or pleasure and maintain a peaceful presence of mind. I leave outside the scope of this writing the use of legal or ilegal drugs.

PROCESSING (AFTER)

– Journaling. A good place to start is the 5 minute journal

– Bedside reading of books full of wisdom

– NLP for rewiring negative associations, though since finding the objective/neutral approach of vipassanna I have stopped using it.

For all of these, continuity of daily practice has proven paramount. You cannot batch them as a yearly review. Increasing the percentage of daily time devoted to the sharpening of internal perception is the highest leverage point to a better experience of reality.

The primary determinant of experience is our internal state of mind. Because of the hedonic treadmill, we are fooling ourselves if we don’t address Internal Processing.

Your experience of reality depends on it.



2 Responses to “Improving daily life without changing your circumstances”

  1. Pattie mayher says:

    This is good stuff. I find that I am frequently trying to balance myself and my life. When I’m at work I focus on others needs (external). After those demands are met I am free to choose between options of exercise and preparing for the last third of the day’s activity.
    Often I have interrupted sleep which relates to various anxieties (internal)
    Meditation is helpful and contributes to relaxation ; I need to find increased time for it to give me more time overall!

  2. Cristina says:

    I really like this article, thank you. Several years ago I started (and then quit, since persistence is usually the most difficult part and what leaves good intentions in just that,intentions)a practice of writing all my negative thoughts of the day, and then trying to find a positive twist to them. For example, ” They have not answered my email, they must not consider my proposal interesting enough”, would change to ” I have not heard from them, it could be a sign that they are reading the proposal thoughtfully and preparing for a good discussion. Or maybe they just need more time to read it.” Or “My boss has again asked me to do extra work, why doesnt she do it?” would turn to ” if she is asking me to do this is because she trusts my work, she is relying on me, that is a good sign.”
    These are just examples of how the same external reality would change from something negative to positive by changing my thoughts. It was MY internal interpretation what was providing me with either a good or bad experience of a given situation. I do believe this inner examination is key for happiness, but rarely done. It is easier to think that others are wrong, external factors are to be blamed, and it is not me what has to be changed.
    I think the main reason for this is the lack of time dedicated to silence, to us. We concentrate on duties, on obligations, on the news, on the TV, on the book… and stopping to concentrate on us is felt like a waste of time (im not doing anything, Im just sitting down in silence with my to-do list waiting for me!). These small steps you suggest are very nice and easy (to start, lets see if to maintain) practices that will change our perceptions, and therefore, our reality.
    Thank you
    What is NLP?

Leave a Reply

-->