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The power of perception

One of my favorite things to do when I’m meeting with a new group of people is to tell them: “I’m going to say a word, and I want you to take a mental snapshot of the very first image that comes to mind.”

And then I say, “Banana.”

The responses are always hugely different between people. Some of my favorites: a monkey, an apple, a banana split, and banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery. (A New Yorker for sure!) For me, when I think of the word banana, I see my toddler throwing an already half-smashed banana on the floor.

This illustrates one of the most important things you can ever know about your own growth and development—that our automatic perceptions shape your reality—how you see yourself, your work and your world. In other words, we are all living within a story we created.

I’m sure you have heard of the two-system brain—we have an automatic, fast, subconscious way of thinking and a slower, more deliberate, conscious way of thinking.

The automatic system is there because we’re taking in so much information at all times, and our “working memory” which is basically how much thinking our brain can do at one time, is a very limited resource. So our brain sort of creates these shortcuts so that our thoughts become automatic, and it’s like the brain doesn’t have to do anymore work.

And what perception or story gets hardwired depends on a lot of things—how recently you experienced something, how many times it’s happened, if it had a particularly emotional charge to it. Two years ago, I probably would have been right there with the other woman in Magnolia Bakery in my head and not in my kitchen, watching my toddler make a mess of a banana.

Now the good news is… While our hardwired connections drive automatic perceptions, we can create new connections. In others words, we can change our minds.

We just have to have the right conditions. We have to engage that slower, more deliberate, conscious thinking.

Through meaningful conversations with yourself, you can unearth the patterns of thinking and feeling that create limits in your life and career. And you can change them to create new mental habits that transform your way of working and way of life.

Try this: Think about a trait of yours that consider to be negative. Then ask yourself, how it has served you well? In what way is it a positive force in your life? How can you begin to shift your understanding of that perceived negative to find more confidence, inspiration and ease in it?

When your perceptions shift, your story shifts. You have this power to transform your truth and free yourself of limitations.