Can one thought change our experience?
Have you noticed that some days we get up in the morning, feeling happy and energised? Meetings go well, we get into our flow and, quite frankly, just about anything seems possible.
On another day, we’ll struggle to even get out of bed and the rest of the day just makes us wish we hadn’t!
Why is this?
Some days we may be obsessing over a problem and the next day we wonder what all the fuss was about and why we were so bothered. We may even have a solution that just hits us out of the blue; apparently that happens a lot in the shower!
Many of us fly a lot, either for business or pleasure. When a plane hits turbulence, are you one of those people who feels totally comfortable or are you more likely to feel your heart racing and believe the end is near?
We assume in these situations it’s the external thing happening which is causing us to feel the way we do, whether it’s the problem we’re trying to solve or the turbulence on the flight.
If this was the case, then everyone would feel the same about turbulence and we wouldn’t see the same problem differently from one day to the next. This suggests our experience isn’t directly caused by the external situation but comes from somewhere else.
Our experience is created from the inside
I experienced this recently at a theme park. I was about to take a friend on a roller coaster that just drops vertically into a black hole…you may know the one. I’d been before but my friend hadn’t and, while we were in the queue, I asked her why her heart is beating so quickly. She asked me how I knew and I said, “because mine is too”. The interesting part is that nothing had happened at that point; we were just standing in a queue! I don’t know about you but that doesn’t happen when I’m queuing at the supermarket.
The ride itself was over in seconds and was quite exhilarating. The fear we both felt was created internally before the ride had started and had nothing to do with the reality of either the ride itself or standing in the queue.
How we were both feeling was created by our thinking about what we thought we were going to face. It was so powerful that it caused a physical reaction; adrenaline was released and caused our hearts to beat faster. All that, just from a thought.
The reason for pointing this out?
Understanding the truth behind where our experience really comes from has profound implications in business and especially where change or conflict is concerned. We all experience the same reality in different ways, so be prepared. The behaviours of others around you will point directly to the way they are experiencing their thinking and not from the situation itself.
Don’t just take my word for it though. See if you can spot it happening, either in yourself or in those around you.
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Mark has over 25 years’ experience of fast paced transformational change, often in highly complex and political situations. He co-founded Applied Change 10 years ago with a clear purpose to push the thinking on human behaviour and human centred change. Most recently he’s been working closely with University of the West of England (UWE) Psychological Sciences Research Group to develop simple, practical models and tools that re-orientate our approach to business change, starting from the human perspective.