There is a rocky outcrop which sits about 30 meters out from the shore of a small bay near my home. Someone jammed a metal pole into the outcrop and strung an Australian flag from it.
Whenever I see this flag pole, I think of one thing: what an amazing target to hit!
And I throw stones into the water in the hope that I will one day strike the pole.
Well this one time I was walking on this beach with my business partner and her family.
She watched me as I flung a stone out into the ocean.
It was a lousy throw.
This must have given her confidence.
Before I could fling the second stone into the ocean, my business partner stopped me and said
“I’ll give you $1000 if you hit that pole.”
I looked around at the witnesses, and then down at the oddly shaped rock in my hand.
“Sure, you’re on!”
There was only one rule, it had to be the rock I had in my hand, so I had one chance.
My business partner is Russian, and I knew that if she makes a bet, she will pay it.
So I steadied myself, making sure I had a firm footing. Raising my left arm up to meet the flag pole on the horizon, locking on to the target, closing my eyes and visualising hitting the pole.
I breathed in.
Pulled my arm back.
Let the stone fly from my hand, twisting and turning as it rocketed through the calm bay air.
It was an excellent throw.
Right on target.
…Until the last few meters, where the stone began to veer to the left, much to my dismay.
It hit the water with a plop, a foot to the left of the flag pole.
I slammed my fist through the air and grit my teeth as the realisation that I had just thrown away $1000 hit me.
But not in the way you think.
As the stone hit the water it suddenly occurred to me, like punch in the face, that all I had to do was take off my shirt, strip down to my boxers and wade out into the bay, doggy paddling my way to a $1000, and tapping the stone in my hand against the flag pole.
You see, there were no rules other than the one saying it must be the stone in my hand.
There was absolutely no rule which said I MUST throw to win!
I had just assumed, in fact it didn’t even occur to me that I had any other option than to throw the stone.
And here is where the really big breakthrough occurred:
Where else in my life do I play by rules which number one, aren’t even there, and number two, don’t serve me?
This was a revolutionary thought.
A thought which whirled through my mind as my business partner did a victory dance through the sand.
Where in YOUR life are you living by rules which don’t serve you?
The mind filters our experience through our perception, which gives us our reality. Our perception is unique, it is a composite of all that you have ever experienced, all your knowledge, thoughts, people, society and things you have surrounded yourself with – even the genetic tendencies you’ve inherited.
“I’m reading The Biography of Edward De Bono, the father of “lateral thinking” and this paragraph is especially relevant to this story:
Threshold effects of familiarity, association, emotional bias and so on, enable patterns to form, and succeeding states become inevitable. These patterns have large catchment areas that funnel in incoming data so that WE TEND TO SEE THE WORLD IN WAYS WE HAVE IN THE PAST. This is useful, making for stability and continuity. Without it life would indeed be impossible. IT IS HOW, UNLESS OTHERWISE PROVOKED, THE BRAIN WORKS. If, each morning, we put on eleven items of clothing (that seems a lot to me…), we would have to consider 39, 916, 800 ways of completing the task if it wasn’t for this characteristic of the brain. THE DOWNSIDE IS THAT THE BRAIN TENDS TO SEE ONLY WHAT IT IS PREPARED TO SEE.
…As a result, the brain is fundamentally uncreative. The excellence of the human brain is that it is designed to form patterns from the world around us and then to stick to these patterns.”
Think of the brain as an immensely powerful auto-correct function on your phone. You know those ones which make texting a fast and often effortless action. The problem is when you try to do things you wouldn’t normally do, that’s when auto-correct becomes your worst nightmare, constantly sabotaging your efforts to change.
Well my auto-correct just cost me $1000.
And I have no doubt that it has cost me far more than that in missed opportunities and blind spots over the years.
How do we change something which is unconscious?
First it must be brought into the conscious.
You cannot change what you are not aware of.
I do this by stopping (set an alarm) at random times throughout the day to ask this one question:
Why am I doing this, and is it serving me?
This forces me to become conscious of my actions and assess whether or not they are habits that benefit, or habits that impede.
By retraining our brains this way, we shift our perception and begin to see the world from a different angle.
And a shift in perception, even in the smallest way, can mean the difference between passing blindly by opportunities, or seeing them everywhere.