I) Refining attention

 

So far we have seen that having a happy life is about having as many happy experiences as possible, and you have learned the four components of an experience. Let’s go ahead with understanding and mastering the first of these components: attention.

 

Do bad situations even exist?

Bad things happen to everyone, that’s for sure. But, what makes a situation bad? How is it possible that when someone is suffering from a situation, another one is happy about it? How can two people see -and therefore feel- different things from a same situation? This is because those two people perceive different things in the same situation. Things are the way they are; it is our own personal interpretation what gives different meanings to something.

To exemplify this, look at the following image and ask yourself the following questions (then do the same for the next images):

  • What do I see?
  • What do I think about it? How would I label it?
  • How do I feel about it?

Frame 1

peces_1

Frame 2

peces_2

Frame 3

peces_3

 

How did your thoughts and feelings change with every picture? The situation was always the same; it was you that changed, by changing the frame through which you look.

You see, how we think, feel and -therefore- what we do, depend on the meaning (interpretation) we give to things. And this interpretations depend on how much of the situation we can see (our frame) and how well we interpret it. It is a matter of awareness. A negative situation is a positive one, waiting for awareness to transform it. A “minus” is a “plus” waiting for a stroke of vertical awareness.

 

Refining attention

So how can we see more of any situation (and better)? Just like with the fish exercise, it is all about changing the frame through which we perceive. To do this, we need to be able to see more information that allow us to interpret the situation better. For that we have our minds, an amazing machine capable of traveling in time and space to extract valuable information that we can then use as we please.

We can extract this information from a series of sources:

  • Time: memories of the past and visualizations of the future.
  • Perceptual position: me, the other, others.
  • Logical level: who, when, where, what, how, why, what for.

 

Time has a way to put everything in perspective for us. To understand time’s effect on our perception, listen to the following story: The Zen master and the boy.

pablo (9)

 

Perceptual positions (PP) are points of view from which we look at a situation. There is not such thing as conflict between people, only conflict between the way the perceive the world. Any conflict can be solved by communicating better and trying to understand the other. 
6_o_9

The 1st PP is your normal point of view, seeing things from your perspective. The 2nd PP is the point of view of the other(s) involved in the situation; seeing things the way they would see it. The 3rd PP is the point of view of an impartial observer, with no interests invested in the situation. Each PP offers new and valuable information that enhances the way we perceive the same situation.

PP

 

Logical levels is a way of referring to what we are specifically talking about; what the real issue is.

 

Practicing

Using the example of losing a job, we can use time to realize that nothing is forever, that in your past there has never been a job that you didn’t lose (unless this was really the first and only) and this is just another process leaving space for a new chapter of your life in the future, where you have plenty of time to find a new and better job. These new insights were always possible but only if you give yourself the chance to perceive them, to think about them.

Practice: What other things can you think of that can allow you to see more of that situation, using the time source?

 

We can use perceptual positions to see the situation from our perspective (which we normally do), from the company’s perspective (the other) and realize there was nothing that your boss could have done and that if you were in their position you would probably do something similar. Or why not seeing it from others’ perspective, which could help you realize that your family could be happy because that job was demanding too much time from you.

Practice: What other things can you think of that can allow you to see more of that situation, using perceptual positions?

 

We can use the logical levels to realize that maybe is not your boss who is firing you, but the company (the who). Or realize that it is not that they are firing you, but that the company is evolving and that your job was the no longer needed: your job, not you (the why). Or realize that you are not necessarily angry because they fired you, but because of how they did it (the how). All these changes will make you feel different and, therefore, change your possible next moves.

Practice: What other things can you think of that can allow you to see more of that situation, using perceptual positions?

 

You can even go further and mix these sources of information, which makes it more powerful: What did my mentor (other) do when he/she was fired (the past)? How can I get my boss (the other) to write a fantastic recommendation letter (what) that can help me find a new job (what for)? What could I (me) do next (future)? What do I want (what) to do? Maybe I can finally go on vacations (what for)!

Practice: What other things can you think of that can allow you to see more of that situation, using all these information sources?

 

Practice it on you

  1. Now think of a difficult situation in the past where you thought things were really bad, where you felt defeated or that there was nothing to do about it. Any situation that was a real challenge.
  2. Now think of how you see that same situation today, from your current perspective now that some time has passed.
  3. Ask yourself these questions: Doesn’t it look different today than when you were there living it? What happened in between that has changed your perspective and feelings about it?

Whatever it was, you could have reacted then as you are reacting now, only that you did not have the information you have today and that only time could give you. Well, in reality we are limited by our own limited imagination; you can use this capacity when life gets tough and imagine how you will see this situation in a year from now, or in 3 or 10 years. You can even assume that things will get better and that you are just not being able to see how… yet.

How many other situations like this can you think of, where perspective changed the way you looked at the situation? Perhaps relationship problems where you later understood something from the other’s point of view that you simply couldn’t see before.

 

In the following lesson you’ll get to practice the skills of better perception and interpretation together, in a self-coaching exercise to address your current life situation.

 

Reflecting on your learnings

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do you take from this lesson?
  • How can these learnings make your life better or easier?
  • How can you make sure you apply these learnings in your life?

Questions