Train Your Perceptions

Marcus Aurelius writes that we should train our perceptions.  He goes on to say, “You have power over your mind – not outside events.  Realize this, and you will find strength.”  –Marcus Aurelius, Meditations.  Even with this awareness, I find myself getting caught up in outside events of the world.  Becoming emotionally involved rouses and wondering why with frustration.  Then I catch myself and make a course correction. Marcus suggests that if we realize this that we will find strength.  I would also add peace; we will find peace if we recognize that we really don’t have control over outside events and then just let them go.  By training our perceptions to notice what we care about and then to decide if it is something we can control or affect change in some way and if not, let it go.  It’s the letting go that becomes difficult; however, with the awareness, it is much more comfortable.

Information comes to our perceptions through our senses.  It is through our attention, memory, intelligence, executive function, social cognition, and judgment.  If we stop there and think about ourselves and people that we know that have found themselves in trouble, it is likely through a lack of insight into one of these perceptions. Consider executive function, since that is likely a term with which we’re not familiar.  Executive function can include monitoring our behavior, our words, and our selves and how we are perceived.  It consists of the use of memory working to recall events and lessons of the past.  It also includes managing of emotions, particularly frustrating feelings.  We have plenty of examples of leaders today that seems to indicate that it is okay to display emotions as you wish without any monitoring.  I like to be aware (perception) of the intensity with which I am showing emotion or to reduce the length of time that I’m experiencing a feeling by catching myself becoming out of character. We recognize that anger is a part of like, however, by training our perception of our anger, we can learn to catch ourselves upfront before an awkward situation, or to catch ourselves when we’re getting out of hand and reduce the intensity or length of that anger.  I believe this is a higher level of consciousness and that when we can present our skills at this level in a variety of situations, we have arrived at a skill that will serve us well.

It takes effort to accomplish this, alertness and speed in catching ourselves headed to trouble. We won’t always succeed, like when my neighbor called me one day out of the blue and began expressing his anger immediately upon my answering the phone.  I reacted poorly, caught myself, but too late.  It takes a certain amount of stopping power that quickly puts on the brakes.  Reflecting on it, I could have said, “I’m getting angry here, and I value your relationship, let’s delay this call until a later time.”  It may not have worked as he was furious, but it would have given me enough presence to pause, let him vent and then gracefully end the call until a later time.

I want to challenge readers to begin the process of Training Your Perceptions, as Marcus Aurelius writes by taking a look at your senses that give you information and feedback.  Leave me a thought on your experiences with this.

Yours for a Better Life,

Rich