Central Wisconsin Business Magazine
July 2005 (Volume 1, Number 3)
You Are What You "See"
You’ve heard the old saying, “You are what you eat.” Well, the same holds true for “You are what you see.” In other words, your perception or beliefs impact the actions you take in your life and business.
People often look to change their actions when they’re not achieving the results they want. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. When a person takes a deeper look at how they “see” the situation – shifts in thinking are created and new actions with desired results soon follow.
"The true journey of discovery does not consist in searching for new territories, but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust
You’re an observer, as is everyone else. You see life unfold through your own eyes, based on your unique experiences as you understand them.
How you view the world and your life determines what you’re able to do and not do, but even more important, who you’re able to “be.” This phenomenon ultimately influences what happens and doesn’t happen.
Why is this concept important to understand and incorporate? Because the way you, individually, and the others in your organization, collectively, see situations and people impact what you will and won’t do.
There are countless situations in workplaces that are impacted by perception and beliefs:
• Conversations with co-workers
• Employees feeling appreciated, valued and fairly compensated
• Division line between salaried and hourly staff
• Knowing the appropriate workload
• Meeting customer expectations
• Interviewing and hiring process
Look at how perceptions can differ:
In my presentations I often hold up various objects and ask the audience to tell me what they “see.” One of my props is a set of stress reliever dumbbells. When I show it to a crowd most respond that the object reminds them of lifting weights and exercising. But invariably, someone will say it looks like a dog’s chew toy! The action you take with exercise dumbbells verses a dog toy gives you two very different outcomes for what everyone would agree is just one item.
This concept can apply to any area of your life. Everyday, you make judgments and assessments based on what your eyes reveal. In the workplace, you may judge what someone wears, how she manages or speaks. You may assess someone’s trust and sincerity, his reliability and competence. It’s human nature to do this, and it can have a profound impact on outcomes in business.
You can change actions and make adjustments, but in the end, you’ll get the same results if you haven’t changed your perceptions.
Over time, an organization or team develops a unique way of observing the world and relationships. Based on this view, people in the organization can see only a limited set of possible actions and may be blind to other ways. As a certified life and business coach and speaker, I work to shift this "organizational observer."
The organizational observer is made up of the views of the individuals participating, the views of the leaders, the historical culture, the values and core beliefs, the prevailing mood, the systems and processes, tools and technology.
A healthy, motivating workplace increases the employee’s ability to learn and to act by expanding the observer that they are in the world. Employees will be given an invitation to be curious, to explore, to discover and revisit important questions about how they take action.
Foundations of Perception
Perceptions are everywhere. Turn on the television, read the newspaper, go online. Whatever the topic – politics, religion, weather, sports, or health – messages of persuasion abound. Wittingly or not, you become convinced of various viewpoints and opinions along the way.
You base your perceptions on beliefs, conversations, and emotions, and they’ve been shaped by generations of people, cultures, and societies. Growing up, others around you played a significant role in creating your mindset and attitude; today, your own life experiences continue to mold your perspective. Subtle and dramatic events happen each day that shape how you view yourself and others.
Here’s an example:
Ann, an experienced teacher, had a kickball flung at her when she was eight years old. Because she didn’t see it coming, the ball bounced off her head, and the boy who’d thrown it proclaimed she couldn’t catch. Years later, in a coaching session, it dawned on her that she hadn’t picked up a ball since, and she viewed herself as not being athletic.
I’m sure you can relate to Ann’s story and have been impacted by another person’s interpretation of you, whether it’s factual or not.
"The important problems we face today cannot be solved with the same level of thinking that we had when we created them." - Albert Einstein
While you can’t modify an event once it’s happened, you can alter your perception of it. Because your observations create what you consider to be real, by expanding or shifting your view, you can enhance your power to take action.
When you identify your current mindset and the way of thinking of those that surround you then, you can begin to create shifts. What’s a shift? It’s the glorious moment when you say, “Ah-Ha - I’ve never looked at it that way.” Something new and different is uncovered.
Sometimes it takes the boldness of an outside observer – a friend, colleague, spouse, child, parent, coach, or even stranger – to shift your perception and change what’s going on inside you. Regardless of the source, nothing opens up a mind to a situation like a fresh set of eyes.
Many coaching clients explain to me that they’ve tried changing themselves in the past and it hasn’t worked. In fact, it was down right difficult and they didn’t want to put the energy into something that seemed so impossible. They tell me that over the course of our coaching relationship they’ve changed but really it was more about “becoming.” And amazingly they tell me, “It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be! It happened by just thinking about it in a different way – seeing it from another perspective.”
Important ingredients to be successful in shifting views are a context of safety, sincerity and an environment of trust. In addition, creativity, confidence, respect and commitment are necessary. Here are some adjustments that can give you a new perspective:
Physically Rearrange your space (move furniture, pictures)
Take a Trip (visit another department, company, city)
Become Aware, Pay Attention, Stop and Be Quiet
(stillness + awareness = intuition)
Change Routine (use your less dominate hand to write, comb your hair,
brush your teeth)
So, are you tired of working hard and getting the same result – one that you don’t want? Then take the conversation to a deeper level, look beyond the words. Start with the observer you and your business are today and imagine changing some of your ingrained observations. Look to open yourself up to all the possibilities you’ve been reluctant or unable to see. Make a commitment to yourself to be responsible, aware, and involved in your daily conversations.