Do you think that how you perceive the world is reality?
Stanford researcher on mindset, Alia Crum, would challenge your affirmative answer. Here’s a recent interview with her on Hidden Brain about how your mindset determines your reality. It’ll challenge your perception of reality and the mindset you create about it.
Crum shared an experience during her graduate school phD program when she was really stressed. A friend noticed her state and said something that seemed to change her mindset about stress. He said, “It’s just a cold, dark night on the side of Everest.”
His point was: what did you expect? You can’t climb Everest and not struggle through cold and dark–stressful–experiences. Likewise, she couldn’t achieve her phD without having stressful experiences.
And why wouldn’t it be this way?
You can reflect on anything you’ve done that was hard–like being a parent, having a healthy relationship with your partner, or succeeding on the next harder climbing grade–and realize those are the experiences that created real meaning in your life. Stress is what made you who you are today.
Consider that your perceptions are your perceptions, which create your reality. We have mindsets that create subjective perceptions of objective reality. We are subjective beings and we project our subjectivity on objective reality. Our beliefs, perceptions, and experiences are always a subjective interpretation of objective reality.
Here are some additional points and questions from the interview I found interesting:
- What is mindset: core assumptions we believe about ourselves. Beliefs about our abilities, about stress, about our worthiness.
- The question to ask about mindset:
- Is not: Which mindset best reflects reality?
- Is: Which mindset will help me most in the long term?
- Mindsets aren’t right or wrong. Rather, you view them based on how they serve you. For example:
- Do you believe stress will be debilitating to your health and wellbeing? If so, then you will feel out of control when you’re stressed.
- Do you believe stress will enhance your health and wellbeing? If so, then you will feel more in control when in stress.
- How much does your brain shape how you perceive the world? The brain’s goal is to predict the future. That future prediction impacts your perception.
- How much does the way you think shape your ability to respond to challenges? You use heuristics and confirmation bias to think about what’s important. These influence your perception of reality.
- We shouldn’t believe that stress is always bad, nor believe that stress is always good. Rather, you determine whether you’re in balance. If you’re stressed too much, then stress will have negative effects on you. If you can cycle between stress and comfort, then you’re more likely to process the stress when you’re in it.
- The total effect of anything you do is a combined product of:
- What you’re actually doing, and
- What you think about what you do.
The conclusion for me is that you create your own version of reality. Being a subjective being, you can’t perceive objective reality in its truest form. But you can accept that you’ll have days that are dark and cold–that are stressful–and accept them as normal. That acceptance gives you a reality check on your life and helps guide you toward a mindset that’s helpful for engaging it.
Practice tip: Apply Your Mindset
- Notice when you’re in stress and how you’re reacting to it.
- Remind yourself of why you’re engaged in the stressful activity.
- Frame the stress in how much you care about what you’re doing.
- Shift your attention to breathing, relaxing, and your senses.
- Redirect your attention to the current task in the stressful situation.