Want proof a vegan diet works? You’ll find it.
Want proof a carnivore diet is the best? You’ll find it.
Want proof your sister-in-law has weird issues? You’ll find it.
Want proof your sister-in-law has admirable qualities? You’ll find it.
We distort our view of reality to fit our thoughts and beliefs.
We filter out what doesn’t match.
It’s called confirmation bias, and we all do it, to some degree.
This bias can be dangerous.
It not only limits us, but it can also just make us wrong and totally miss the boat. Or get us hurt. You can be subjectively blind to so much, which also means you could be greatly missing out.
Your brain does this partly from ego, but also to be efficient and make decisions faster. It’s easier to just believe what you already think and recognize proof that you’re right, rather than taking the time and energy to process every alternative that comes along.
Defaulting to the Good
Confirmation bias makes us less smart. But if we’re doomed to have this bias, then I choose to take advantage of it.
I do this by defaulting to always presuming the good.
I know that I can program my brain to believe whatever I want based on what I think and tell it. I’d say my brain is that dumb — to believe what I want whether it’s real or not, but I’m opting to say it’s brilliant.
I also know that when I say, think, and feel things, my brain will look for more proof to prove I’m right, both because the ego does that (it likes being right), and because our eyes are then open to see all the things we think.
Herein lies your power, should you choose to take advantage of it.
You can choose to think and say the things that empower you, that heal you, that uplift you, and connect you positively to other people. This improves your life. It feels amazing, it energizes you, it opens doors for you, and it creates more bliss in your life.
Or, you can choose otherwise.
You can also choose to think and feel fear, and things that are dark and dividing, things that are sad, things that take your power away from you. It feels icky. It drains your energy. It closes doors to you and impedes flow.
It’s up to you. Really.
Our minds will seek whatever we focus on. If we seek happy thoughts, even for things we don’t typically think of as happy, we will indeed get more happy.
Here’s how to choose the happy route.
What you appreciate appreciates.
Let me write that again because it’s powerful: What you appreciate appreciates. When you find the good in something (or someone), no matter how small that “good” is, it makes it easier to see more good.
Here’s a fun experiment to turn a negative into a positive.
When you find yourself around negative people, just ask yourself, “What are my favorite qualities about this person?”
It can be just one thing.
You’ll be amazed because you can always come up with one thing. And when you do, there’s a lightness, a feeling that’s more enjoyable than the moments before that surrounds you… simply because you thought of one thing you liked about a situation or person. Try it.
A recent dinner party…
We were at a gathering (pre-self-isolation) where some of the guests were less than stellar (through my lens). During the post-party debrief, it would have been so easy and natural to judge them. To spend time rehashing things they had said, etc.
But, why? It wouldn’t help anyone or anything. Trash-talk is detrimental to the people who say it, even privately. Focusing on negative traits (or aspects) puts your mind into negative mode, and then your mind starts looking for more negativity to prove you were correct. Confirmation bias, remember? This doesn’t help anybody. Neither the people doing the talking, nor the people being talked about.
Sometimes we’re even offended by people’s behavior and feel righteous about talking about it. Ad nauseum.
It doesn’t matter! We want to change our focus.
Instead of saying anything negative, try only speaking of the good. Either say something good or don’t say anything at all. And don’t think negative thoughts, either.
If you look hard, you will always bee able to find some redeeming quality about the person, place, or thing that you were going to say something bad about. Shifting your focus to look for the good will bring more good into your mind, and you’ll start seeing more good in your life, in a virtuous cycle that can last for hours and days.
That said, I’m not suggesting you “put up” with rude, mean, or hurtful behavior. We simply don’t put ourselves in those positions! We opt out. Meanwhile, we still send love to everyone, wish people well, and welcome more love and good into our lives when we do this.
Let’s go deeper. Are you ready?
Try this on for size: What happens if you take the approach of assuming that anything that happens is actually your responsibility?
In other words, anything you perceive, any person you don’t think you like, that it’s your issue and not them. It’s your making, your mind, your creation, and therefore it’s your responsibility. No exceptions. It’s you you you.
Well, isn’t that a bucket of ice being dumped on you. Hmmm.
But that also means you have the power to change it.
If you can fix and heal YOUR perceptions of something or someone, you gain incredible power.
You can start by simply saying to yourself, “Nothing is as it appears, even my thoughts of this person or thing.”
Just opening your mind to that possibility will make you more curious, open-minded to possible alternative explanations or facts. You can apply this to anything — places, things, people, such as family, co-workers, your boss… even politicians!
Nothing is as it appears.
Again, think about that.
Look at everything around you and try to imagine that it’s not as it appears. Try that on for size. Think about the person who used to give you angst and imagine that things are not as they appear. You don’t need to force the details of an alternate picture or explanation (though it might be helpful). Rather, just repeat to yourself, “maybe he/she’s not as he/she appears.”
Cutting people slack.
You see, there’s so much unknown. So much mystery. We can’t possibly ever know the whole story of someone’s life. And, no one will ever fully understand yours. So, let’s start by cutting people some slack. Even seemingly offensive ones.
No, especially seemingly offensive ones!
That person who just cut you off in traffic? Maybe he’s a sweet, wonderful soul who just made a mistake. Instead of judging, send him love!
A Life-Changing Lesson About My Dad
In my 20s, I listened to Tony Robbins a lot. I was seeking ways to improve my life.
One day, I remember sitting at a stoplight, listening to Tony on a CD, when he said something that changed me forever.
He said, people are always just doing the best they can. It usually has nothing to do with you! It’s always about them.
This is such a simple concept but rings true with such elegance.
I applied this idea to my dad, who left my family when I was a small child. Although I saw him from time to time, there were questions, blames, issues.
But as I sat there at the stoplight, I looked at my dad through a different lens for the first time.
I said out loud, “What if my dad was just doing the best he could?”
“What if, in fact, he actually did really love me, but he was just living his life the best he knew how, the best he could, using the limited tools he had, having learned them from his own imperfect parents?”
WHOA. That rattled me.
But in an exciting way.
Right there at that stoplight, I immediately forgave my father. It was so easy. A feeling of peace washed over me as I realized that he’s a human being, living life his way, the best he knows how, making decisions from his own heart.
It might not be how I live my life, but it doesn’t make him wrong. Or bad. He is on his journey, living life based on his past experiences and his own wisdom from them. I don’t have his past experiences or stories because I have my own which shape me.
I then applied this realization to other people that I felt had wronged me in my life and… you know what? I found myself in a place of awe. I no longer had any of the old judgment or defensiveness. Instead, it just was what it was. This brought me even more peace, like I let go of a weight that I’d been dragging with me my whole life.
It’s so easy to judge and think we know what’s right, and when we do this, we’ll always find proof to back it up.
But, does believing that “I’m right, they’re wrong” ever make us feel better? No, it doesn’t. It never does. Any satisfaction you may feel from this is an illusion of a frightened ego, trying to protect its fragile self.
Seek the positive. The good.
Knowing that my brain will automatically look for proof to prove I’m right about things, people, and circumstances, I now actively choose to find something positive for my focus.
My life improved the moment I started doing this!
Because, now that I’ve directed my brain to seek out the positive, it finds it everywhere I look. It was always there, all around us, just waiting for you to open your mind to seeing it.