A familiar story about Picasso was the jumping off point for my latest keynote, and communicates a valuable lesson about leadership and personal development.
The story revolves around the abstract portraiture paintings Picasso created in the 30s. And the story goes that a man recognized Picasso in the train compartment in which he was traveling, and asked him, “why don’t you paint people the way they really are?” Picasso asked what he meant by that expression, the way they are? So the man opened his wallet and took out a picture of his wife and said like this ,“ this is my wife.” To which Picasso responded, “Isn’t she rather small and flat?”
Picasso was able to see the photograph as distinct from what it represented, whereas the man saw the photo of his wife as reality, “the way she is.”
Although routinely accepted it is critical that we remain aware of our perception of reality and to remember how it is we see, and experience the world. From a cognitive perspective we understand the world in the following sequence:
1. Our senses inform us about what is out in the world
2. Our brain interprets this information into its own simulation about the world
3. We have a conscious experience of our world
What this means is that every moment of every day we are consciously and unconsciously connecting dots that are not present so as to construct stories to fit our experience of what we know to be real.
In this way our mind not only defines our world but can also confine our thinking.
The problem is not that our brain works to create a certain reality, that’s an important function of our brain; the problem arises when we believe our reality as the only truth. But is reality always true? No, unless of course you are married, any married person knows that their spouse’s anger and recall of the situation is not only real but is also true.
When we can see no other way but our way, we are trapped by the confinement of our reality. The problems and barriers we encounter are not insurmountable; they only seem unsolvable while being viewed from our particular point of view.
However, when we intentionally create another frame of reference or adopt another point of view problems that seemed unsolvable can be solved and new opportunities can appear. Why? Because within reality is the truth that it’s all a story we tell ourselves. And every story is constructed by connecting unseen dots using perceived information based on past personal experiences. Remaining aware of our story allows us to choose another way of seeing the world, one that allows for the conditions you desire.
Now I’m not talking about wishing money into existence by taping an affirmation or quote on your bathroom mirror that says I’m a millionaire and every time you brush your teeth you tell yourself that story and then poof you have a yacht. Affirmations are a way forward, a beginning point of departure from which you can start to construct a new world view, but affirmations alone will not change your world.
Because the reality is we experience our world through stories already told, and we navigate our world following maps already drawn. I am simply reminding you that our memories create our reality, and that the majority of everything we say we’ve already said before and most likely within the past week. So when we decide to listen instead of speak, and consider instead of assume, we can construct new realities and become open to new possibilities. Our story can change.
A life story doesn’t just happen, our stories are built upon the memories we constructed to satisfy our needs at that particular moment in our life. When we remind ourselves that we can reframe and shift our perspective we can actively and intentionally write a new story. A story that states why you are important, what your story means to you, for who you will become, for what you will accomplish next, and most importantly how you will serve a purpose greater than yourself.
Life doesn’t happen to you, it happens through you.