How to Get Past Your Own Reality Filter

How to Get Past Your Own Reality Filter

Diversity Training Now What

How to Get Past Your Own Reality Filter

– 3 min –

Climb Down Your Ladder

In my prior blog Reality is Like a Zoom Meeting, I shared the idea that reality is subjective. Surprise! Each of us processes situations through the filters of our own experiences and conditioning. This means others don’t always see what you see. Today I share a technique for avoiding the common trap of thinking that reality is objective — that others see reality the same way you do.

Ladder of Inference

The Ladder of Inference is a concept that was developed by Chris Argyris to help us understand our internal filtering process.

First, we all take in ‘data’ and experiences like a video recorder would. We then respond based upon that input. However, a lot takes place in our brains in between the stimulus and response. And it can happen in a blink of an eye.


 
Click to enlarge diagram

It’s as if our brains ‘climb up’ a Ladder of Inference, where meaning (e.g., assumptions, conclusions, opinions, beliefs) is added to the observable data or experience. We then act based upon the brain’s interpretation. The Ladder of Inference is the brain’s story-generating machine. And it’s always on!

This filtering happens so frequently and subconsciously that we typically don’t recognize it’s going on. We don’t realize how much of our own ‘stuff’ has been layered on to the observable data/experience.

In his book Conscious Business (one of my favorites), Fred Kofman talks about “ontological humility”. (Yes, I had to look up ontology and found that it is the branch of philosophy that deals with the study of reality.) The humility part is the power of being humble enough to acknowledge that one’s reality is just that – your personal reality as seen through your personal filters – and therefore others have their own reality too.

Climb Down Your Ladder

To practice ontological humility, you first have to become more aware of when your Ladder of Inference kicks in. As you go through your day, pause periodically to reflect on whether you may be holding an assumption, conclusion, opinion, or belief as the objective Truth.

Take an initial project meeting, for example, where someone doesn’t participate and seems distracted. You might decide this person is not engaged and won’t be a productive contributor. Pause to reflect and ‘climb down your ladder’ by asking “what would the video recording show”? In other words, what are the irrefutable facts? You might realize that the video recording would show the person as quiet and distracted. Period. The idea that they won’t contribute in the future — that’s a story you’ve made up.

As you get more comfortable with the notion of filtered reality, practice sharing your stories with others. For instance, instead of stating your point of view as the Truth (e.g., “Here’s what happened, <situation>, and here’s what it means”, share your story (e.g., “Here’s what happened and here’s the story I told myself, <situation>”.))  I’m curious if any of you will see it differently.

By acknowledging that others may see things differently, you welcome more ideas, creative possibilities, and perspectives.

Take a Pause and Coach Yourself

At the end of the day, isn’t inviting authentic participation what we are all hoping for in our interactions with others?

Can you imagine all the benefits we would reap if we were all aware of and acknowledged our filtered stories? This could have a huge positive impact on our effectiveness and collaboration, not only in our professional lives but in our personal ones too.

Mike Normant, CEO, Unlimit Group

A former global learning & development director at eBay, Mike is now CEO of The Unlimit Group, an executive coaching and leadership training company. Mike is also an active member of executive coaching cadres at Skyline Group International, Lee Hecht Harrison, and Sidekick.
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A Dog’s Life

A Dog’s Life

A Dog’s Life

3 min –

 

You don’t have to be a canine lover or canine owner to appreciate the joy, engagement and utter delight that dogs bring to nearly everything they experience.

I am a dog owner and lover, and have often found awe and joy in watching my dogs just love life. Recently, my two Golden Retrievers, Nilla and Posey, taught me a valuable lesson that prompted these thoughts.

I’m working from Lake Tahoe for a while – a welcome retreat from the city and a place that provides respite and inspiration for me. And of course, the lake is a magnet for retrievers – which presents a constant challenge in managing them here.

At home in San Francisco, we have a fenced-in yard; here, the back doors open up to the lawn that goes right down to the lake. And Nilla, the puppy, has still not learned good recall, so I always have to have her on a leash. Despite that, she wants to run and play and drag me along.

So at first, every time I had them out, I found myself hurrying them along, not letting them sniff, chew and explore as they love to do. I was consistently getting tangled up in their leashes; twice I missed my step on the rocky beach and twisted my ankle. I was becoming more and more impatient, thinking of everything that was waiting for me back at my desk, yelling at them to move along. I had work to do.

Then one day I just stopped. I looked at the glass-like lake, the pure blue sky, the bloom of everything around us now that summer is nearly here. And I saw Nilla and Posey totally absorbed in whatever pine cone, or duck feather or stick happened to be on their path. I realized they were finding a way to enjoy these somewhat torturous outings – even if I was not.

And why? Because dogs live in the moment. They don’t worry about the past or stress about the future. They focus on whatever is in front of them; they take advantage of the moment.

This isn’t to say that action and planning aren’t valuable, but we often miss opportunities that are in plain sight when we just go-go-go from one thing to another.

What can we learn from their experience?

My suggestion: begin to practice appreciation of being in the moment by selecting one or two activities you know you will be doing this week. It could be exercising, playing with your kids, talking with a colleague. Focus on what is happening, be fully present, enjoy the moment. This will help you build the discipline to make it a more regular practice – one that will help you develop the strategic awareness to see what is possible, instead of automatically moving from one thing to another.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is the value of appreciating what we have, not what we lack; of having understanding and empathy for all creatures; of stopping to reflect and know there is more to life than just checking the boxes – that we are consciously making choices to leverage all the possibilities in our lives.

Posey and Nilla know what it means to be in the moment. Time for me to take note.

Roberta A. LaPorte, Organizational Consultant

After spending 25 years leading Fortune 50 organizations and technology start-ups, Bobbie draws on positive psychology and her experience as a six-time Ironman triathlons finisher to help organizations navigate uncertainty and get ready for anything

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How to ‘Coach Your Self Up’

How to ‘Coach Your Self Up’

The MINDset Game® Podcast

with Vered Kogan

Featuring Mike Normant

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How to ‘Coach Your Self Up’

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In this episode, Vered Kogan speaks with Mike Normant, executive coach, trainer and creator of the Coach Your Self Up® program which teaches self-coaching skills to help individuals make lasting behavior change. You will learn how to identify and shift limiting mindsets and behaviors to achieve even greater results in your career and life.

Mike Normant, CEO, Unlimit Group

A former global learning & development director at eBay, Mike is now CEO of The Unlimit Group, an executive coaching and leadership training company. Mike is also an active member of executive coaching cadres at Skyline Group International, Lee Hecht Harrison, and Sidekick.
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Reality is Like a Zoom Meeting

Reality is Like a Zoom Meeting

Diversity Training Now What

Reality is Like a Zoom Meeting

– 2 min –

Your Box isn’t My Box

You may be familiar with the line from the movie Forrest Gump, “life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.” But what about “reality is like a Zoom meeting”?

A teacher of mine surprised me one day when he said, “one of the biggest challenges facing humans is that we believe reality is objective, when in fact it’s 100% subjective.” I wasn’t quick to absorb this idea, but now I get it. We each have our own personal version of reality that’s not the objective truth. Instead, it’s filtered through our experience, which makes it our subjective reality.

It’s human nature to assume others share our reality. But here’s the thing: we each process any given moment through our unique lifetime of experiences and conditioning. Since nobody on the planet has had your exact life, it stands to reason that nobody sees or feels or understands the same situation exactly like you do.

The point isn’t that we have different perspectives because we live different lives, but that our perspectives become our reality.

Take a group Zoom call, for instance. As a metaphor, it can give us some insight. We are all sitting in the same meeting, hearing the same discussion. Yet there we all are, in our own little “boxes” on the screen. Think of each box as representing each of our unique realities. We’re in different locations. We have different distractions. We’re dealing with different challenges. We have different impressions of the same speakers and dialogue. Sure, we’re having a crossover moment, but each of us has a different experience of the reality of this meeting.

The same logic applies when we’re all gathered around a conference room table (remember those?). We’re in the same place, but each of us has our own life filters. Jane has a parent with serious health challenges. Ahmad has a teenager who is having a tough time with school. Trevor is new to the organization and is keen to make a good impression. Sasha doesn’t speak up to share a crucial insight because of her negative conditioning around authority figures. Etc.

The next time you are on a group Zoom call, take a moment to consider that everyone is in their own world, different from yours, as signified by all the individual boxes. This thought experiment may make it easier for you to recognize that each person on the call is having a unique version of the shared experience…and defining their reality accordingly. I wonder how it might shift your thinking or approach?

In my next blog, I’ll share some techniques for helping you avoid the trap of assuming others see reality as you do.

Mike Normant, CEO, Unlimit Group

A former global learning & development director at eBay, Mike is now CEO of The Unlimit Group, an executive coaching and leadership training company. Mike is also an active member of executive coaching cadres at Skyline Group International, Lee Hecht Harrison, and Sidekick.
Learn more »

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Practical self-coaching techniques to identify and break through self-limiting behaviors and thought patterns. Learn to be your own coach and take more ownership of your career development.

Starts Feb 14, 2022


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6-Weeks Online
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Well-Being, Audacity and the Search for Meaning

Well-Being, Audacity and the Search for Meaning

Well-Being, Audacity and the Search for Meaning

– 3 min –

Which post-pandemic trend resonates with you and how do you lean into it? – Ginny Whitelaw

The trends and reports are coming in: how 18 months of Covid and various states of lockdown are indelibly changing our lives. Physical and mental well-being have become forefront concerns for many, including those in healthcare who have been exhausted, and seen their colleagues and systems exhausted, by waves of illness. The upending of everyday life and distancing from loved ones has strained mental health and thrown many of us into deeper questioning: what’s this all about anyway? The caution of lockdown has given way to audacious hopes and dreams that have people quitting jobs, writing books, and starting new businesses at record rates. The increase in working from home and meeting online has given rise to greater informality, authenticity and intolerance of work that seems without purpose or meaning.

Whether you resonate with needing to attend to your well-being, having an audacious goal for your post-pandemic life, or searching for greater meaning in this muddle, working with resonance itself is an invaluable tool. To resonate is to vibrate with. To live in resonance with life itself is to harmonize with the energies around us: the people, the situations, the earth and natural forces, and even the future we sense is possible. It gives rise to a sense of well-being, a sense of timing for when audacious moves are possible, and a sense of rightness that puts our meaning-making intellect at ease.

Resonance is not an exotic skill; it’s a physical fact. But we greatly affect how we resonate, e.g., what energies we sense and work with and the vibe we put out to others. To put it simply: we degrade our resonance by getting in our own way and we strengthen our resonance by getting out of our own way. We get in our own way because we have an ego and an entire web of needs and desires, fears and habits embodied from the past. We get out of our own way through integrative tuning and taming practices that unwind this stuff and bring our mind and body into harmony. These practices are at the heart of the Resonate course. By putting them into practice, our inner world becomes better harmonized, which in turn manifests in our outer world.

Sounds simple, and it is, but it’s not easy. Strengthening our inner resonance inverts our ordinary way of looking “out there” for some product that makes us feel better or some work that gives meaning to our life. Searching “out there”, we might find temporary relief or pleasure but nothing truly life-enhancing because everything “I” resonates with is conditioned by that whole ego-based web of needs, desires, fears and habits. It’s only when we start seeing through the web and unwinding some of its knots that we arrive at a free and fresh place.
That’s why, for example, meditation is one of the core practices for changing our resonance. By using deep, long, slow exhales, we can harmonize head, heart and hara (lower abdomen). With all senses open, we bring in the outer world and blend those energies with the inner rhythm.

    Plane passing overhead, bird chirping, motor revving, midsummer light; 

    stream of breath, all-embracing, inner-outer, waves upon waves upon waves.
    
Insight arises, the body relaxes, gratitude wells up,
    
the mind forms words from waves, and the intellect calls it “meaning”.

Enhanced well-being, appropriate audacity, and nothing separate to search for: such are the gifts of working with resonance.

Ginny Whitelaw, Author & CEO, Institute for Zen Leadership

A biophysicist and former senior manager for integrating NASA’s International Space Station, Dr. Whitelaw has trained leaders on the path of making a difference for more than 25 years, working with mind, body, energy and resonance through the Institute for Zen Leadership. Learn more »

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