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Perceived Reality

As strange as it sounds, reality has very little to do with the way we live day-to-day. Instead, it’s our perceptions of reality that tend to dictate how we process experiences, which people/places/events we remember and for what reason, what products we buy, etc. We act on our perceptions, not reality. If this sounds confusing, here’s an example…

My daughter coaches a volleyball team for 14 and 15 year old girls. They went undefeated until the final match of their season, when they finally lost a very close battle with a very talented team. Afterwards, a woman approached my daughter and remarked, “Well, Coach, your team kind of quit on you, didn’t they?” To this woman, it didn’t matter that girls had played to the best of their capabilities. Her perception was that they lost because they gave up, and that is how she will always remember their season, regardless of everything else that was accomplished.

Because each of us has no choice but to filter reality through our own perceptions, some distortion is unavoidable. But when was the last time you gave your perceptions a reality check?

Have you quit exercising because you tried to get in shape before and were unsuccessful? Do you believe you fail at every attempt to eat healthy? Are you convinced it’s impossible for you to stop smoking? Have you accepted that nothing and no one will ever be able to do anything for your back pain?

Failure is really a strong word, and to echo a popular saying, the only true failure is quitting. If you carry around a perception that you have failed at something, that your life is destined to be a certain way, that change is unattainable, then that perception will eventually become your reality.

While negative perceptions are damaging, inaccurately positive ones can be just as harmful. Do you feel free to eat the entire can of Pringles in one sitting just because they say “multigrain” on the label? Because you walked to the grocery store, do you excuse yourself from workouts for the rest of the week? If you’re down to half a pack a day, do you think that’s good enough because you’re not smoking as much as you used to? Don’t let the perception that you’ve already done something good for you keep you from doing more.

Because incorrect perceptions can keep us from living the life we want to live, it’s worth it to reevaluate them from time to time. Have I really done all I can to attain my healthy goals? Odds are we can all find something to improve on. Keep moving, my friends!

- Alan

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