Do you like Wasabi Peas? I must admit that I love the crunch and texture of them. But most of all I love the ZING that comes when the Wasabi kicks in!
The other day I popped a handful into my mouth anticipating that little blast of Wah. Waiting for it, I happened to notice the expiration date on the bag. It read, “Best by, 093015.”
And I thought, “Holy Crap! These things have a longer shelf life than Twinkies!”
You see my mind took a quick look at the number 093015 and interpreted it as September in the year 3015!
Now, It only took about 3-seconds for me to recognize the impossibility of that perception. But for those three seconds, my reality reflected the belief that wasabi peas – or at least this bag of them – could last for 1000 years. By about the 5th second I had, reconfigured my perception to accurately, I think, interpreted the numbers to mean the 30th day of September 30th, 2015.
It was a simple mistake, a trick of perception, you might say. And the expiration date of wasabi peas is obviously not a big deal. But what is important is that it got me to pay attention to the ways in which my mind interprets, and often misinterprets the world around me.
I began to wonder how often my perceptions are faulty, and how often I allow those perceptions to remain unquestioned?
Here’s another example. A few years ago, when I was still working with individual coaching clients I was referred a prospective client. When I called for the chat with potential clients to make sure we were a good fit, I could immediately tell that something was wrong. My mind, helpful as ever, and without any corroborating evidence, immediately concluded that she did not want to work with me as a coach. My ever-helpful mind continued to make up a story that she was, in fact, downright distraught that I had even called her and was now wasting her time!
Fortunately, by that time in my practice I had learned not to trust much of what assumptions and conclusions my mind is so fond of jumping to. So, before discussing anything about coaching, I jumped right in and asked her if anything was wrong. She told me that a good friend had passed away two days earlier.
As she shared the depth of her sorrow, I could feel my mind slinking away into the corner like a cartoon character trying to hide after making a silly mistake.
Our minds are masters of assumption. Most of those assumptions are wrong. And far too often, we accept them without question. It would not have made much difference in my life if I had accepted that wasabi peas have a 1000-year shelf life. But it certainly would have affected me if I had chosen not to question my mind’s assumption about that potential client. If left unquestioned, that perception would have fed directly into my sense of self-worth, ultimately contributing to an internal devaluation.
One faulty perception will not cause great harm, but when multiple, erroneous perceptions are left unquestioned, the effect on your life can be dramatic.
Can you think of times in your life when your mind has misinterpreted a situation? Perhaps someone said something that, without clarification, could have been taken in any number of ways. Perhaps your manager made a comment that caused you to think she was disappointed in your work. Perhaps your partner said something that made you think they didn’t like something you did. Perhaps a parent gave a “look” that you interpreted a certain way.
Here’s an awareness practice for you today: Throughout the day question as many perceptions as possible. From the obvious to the hidden, observe and reevaluate the assumptions of your mind that too often are taken for granted.
When you catch someone giving you a “look” and find yourself wondering, “what did I do wrong?” question the way you have perceived that look. When someone says something that upsets you, observe the story your mind is making up and question it. Even question the story about your physical world: When you see a car and perceive it as such, question it. “Is that really a car?”
Some of your perceptions will true – that car probably will end up being a car – others you will recognize as obviously false, and some will require additional input, perhaps from another person. The point is not whether the perceptions are true or false. The point is to begin questioning the often-unquestioned assumptions of your mind.
Your mind can be a wonderful servant. But it definitely makes a horrible master. By questioning your mind’s perceptions and assumptions you immediately begin to shift the balance of power away from your mind and back towards your essential nature.
Leave a comment below to let me know what you discover!