Heard it before have you? “Life is what you make it.” Or, “The world is what we make of it.” – Sounds very Hallmark, or perhaps, like something you’d find in a fortune-cookie. Well, it’s time we crack that cookie open and examine the validity of its contents….
Q: Is life really what you make of it?
Once upon a time, two foreigners happened upon a small town and met with the mayor before coming to live there…
In his meeting with the mayor, the first foreigner asked, “what is it like to live here?” – to which the mayor replied, “first, why don’t you tell me what it is like where you come from?”. “Oh”, said the newcomer, “it’s lovely back home. Everyone is always smiling, friendly, and all the neighbors are happy to share and help one another”. “Well”, said the mayor, “I think you’ll find that things are very much the same here”
In his meeting with the mayor, the second foreigner, too, asked, “what will it be like to live here?” And again the mayor answered his question with another; “what is it like back where you come from?” “Well”, began the newcomer, “it isn’t a very welcoming place; people are angry, rude, and all the neighbors are really just out for themselves.” “Well” said the mayor, “I think you’ll find that things are going to be very much the same here.”
The above story is meant to illustrate one point: perception is everything. The whole world apparently goes sour when something as seemingly benign as a subtle shift in mood ensues. We have all experienced this phenomenon and call it “waking up on the wrong side of the bed”. – As I’m sure you can attest, if you’ve ever been in a rotten mood, those people, places, or situations that seemed like opportunities the sunny day before, now appear as obstacles on the cloudy day that follows.
But what has really shifted? Has that overly friendly, joking co-worker suddenly turned into an obsequious as#$ole? Has that same great piece of advice you read in Psychology Today on the importance of keeping organized, suddenly morphed into a pile of bogus propaganda? Has your favorite restaurant gone entirely “down the tubes” in an instant because the wait was once too long? – Granted, nothing in life is static and external circumstances are always subject to change; but if we take a moment to think about it, can we honestly say that external quantum shifts of such nature are the root cause of all negative experience? Mind you, this would seem to entail some sort of cosmic conspiracy for whenever things fail to go as planned. – While some might not be so quick to rule this option out, for most rational folks, it doesn’t seem likely.
A more plausible explanation, is that we filter our environment through the tinted lens of our ever-changing emotional states. Because this lens stands between the senses, which gather information, and the mind, which observes it, our picture of reality is less determined by what data we gather, and more a consequence of how that data is interpreted.
This begs the following:
Q: Granted that the world is what it is, and our happiness hinges on our perception of it, must we be subject to the hue of our lenses, or can we assert some creative authority that would enable us to change our outlook despite our circumstances?
A: The extent of our ability to choose how we see the world is far greater than that which we give ourselves credit. Furthermore, our mere interpretation of a given scenario can have a profound impact on the very circumstances that constitute that scenario. – On a scientific level, this notion becomes highly advanced and only comprehensible through an in-depth knowledge of quantum mechanics and a phenomenon Einstein referred to as “Spooky Action at a Distance“.
On in empirical level, it couldn’t be simpler: You walk past a person on the street; you interpret them as friend, not foe; so you smile, and they smile back. Conversely, you pass that same person and interpret him as hostile; you give him a cautious glare, and a frown appears across his face. – There, you’ve done it; you’ve affected quantum change starting with a frame of mind.
So many of life’s challenges, though they manifest on the physical plane, start and end in the mind. Given this quantum reality, how can we harness our change-affecting power and apply it to our lives at large?
In the Spider-Man movie with Tobey Maquire (yeah, I just made a Hollywood/Marvel comic-book reference… bear with me), uncle Ben tells Peter Parker:
“With great power, comes great responsibility”
– If we accept that as a valid premise, and take its contrapositive, this is what’s revealed:
When you take responsibility, you come into power!
This is huge! – It says that we have the power to make our own experience by focussing the lens through which we view the world.
If life is composed of conscious experience, and we are responsible for what that will be, then life itself is, in deed, what we make of it.
Lastly, hold the ending quote in mind. And if you still need convincing, then simply run the following experiment: When you feel you’ve woken up on the wrong side of the bed…
- Refocus your lens
- Act in accordance with your new picture
- See what happens…
“The really lucky people are the ones who make the best of whatever life throws at them”
*Not sure where to begin / how to “refocus your lens”? – read instructions on Positive Habit Design