A field of grass is given its character, essentially, by those experiences which happen over and over again–millions of times. The germination of the grass seed, the blowing wind, the flowering of the grass, the hatching of insects, being beaten down by thunderstorms, the paths made by animals and hikers, and so on. It is a whole system of interdependent events that determine the nature of the field of grass.
It is also roughly true that the nature of our beliefs and perceptions are interpreted from our experiences. The field of grass cannot change its character. Grass cannot interpret and shape its experiences to create a different nature. However, we are not a field of grass. We can choose to interpret our experiences in any way we wish. You know as well as I do that few of us are even aware of what this means.
(*-*) AAA (00) I 000000 I ^–^ I – – _ – – _ I
Look at the six designs above. Assign a label to each of them by selecting one of the following words: “Indians,” “piggy nose,” “shy kitty,” “woman,” “sleeper,” and “bathroom.”
Now that you’ve assigned labels to the designs, ask yourself: “Why is this so easy to do?” For example, if you labeled AAA as “Indians,” then how does an Indian village with its ponies, tents, campfires, etc. fit so comfortably into three letters? The symbols have no meaning. We give them meaning by how we choose to interpret them. You have the freedom to select any meaning for any experience instead of being a victim who must assign one and only one meaning to each experience.
We automatically interpret all of our experiences without realizing it. Are they good experiences, bad ones, what do they mean and so on? We do this without much thought, if any, to what the interpretations mean. For instance, if a woman bumps into you, you wonder why. The event of her bumping into you is neutral in itself. It has no meaning. It’s your interpretation of the bumping that gives it meaning, and this meaning shapes your perception of the experience.
You may interpret the “bump” as rude or deliberately aggressive behavior. Or you may feel you are of such little significance that you are deliberately unnoticed and bumped around by others. You may choose to use the experience as an example of feminist aggression, or you may interpret the bump as her way of flirting with you. Your interpretation of the experience determines your perception.
Think of roses and thorns. You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses. You can choose to interpret experiences any way you wish. It is not the experience that determines who you are; it is your interpretation of the experience. You do not see things as they are; you see them as you are.
A friend told me a story he heard when he taught psychology as a guest lecturer in Africa. He and his students were discussing the merits of positive thinking, when one of the students related a story that was commonly told in his tribe. The chief of the village had a friend who had the habit of remarking “this is good” about every occurrence in life no matter what it was. One day the chief and his friend were out hunting. The king’s friend loaded a gun and handed it to the king, but alas he loaded it wrong and when the chief fired it, it exploded and his thumb and two fingers were blown off.
“This is good!” exclaimed his friend.
The shocked and bleeding chief was furious. “How can you say this is good you idiot! Leave me you moron. I want nothing more to do with you!” he shouted.
About a year later the chief went hunting by himself. Cannibals captured him and took him to their village. They tied his hands, stacked some wood, set up a stake and bound him to it. As they came near to set fire to the wood, they noticed that he was missing a thumb and two fingers. Being superstitious, they never ate anyone who was less than whole. They untied the king and sent him on his way.
Full of remorse the chief rushed to his friend and hugged him. “You were right, it was good,” The chief told his friend how the missing thumb and fingers saved his life and added, “I feel so ashamed for having insulted and ignored you all these months.
“No! This is good!” responded his delighted friend.
“Oh, how could that be good my friend, I did a terrible thing to you while I owe you my life.”
“It is good” said his friend, “because if you hadn’t dismissed me I would have been hunting with you and they would have killed me.”
The average person actively seeks only the information that confirms our their beliefs and theories about themselves and the world. Religious people see evidence of God’s handiwork everywhere; whereas atheists see evidence that there is no God anywhere. Conservatives see the evils of liberalism everywhere and liberals see the evils of conservatism everywhere. Likewise, people who believe they are creative see evidence of their creativity everywhere, and people who do not believe they are creative see evidence everywhere that confirms their negative belief.
People who believe they can and people who believe they can’t are both right.
To discover more about the power of creative thinking read creativity expert Michael Michalko’s book CRACKING CREATIVITY.