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Changing Your Personal Reality – Part 1

Changing Your Personal Reality – Part 1

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    My Head Hurts…

    While the subject of “Personal Reality” might seem somewhat esoteric, philosophical and even confusing to some, it’s something that’s not only relevant to every one of us, but also something that impacts on virtually every area of our existence and human experience in a tangible and practical manner. All the time. Just as we each have different DNA, so too do we each inhabit our own “personal” reality. That is, the way we experience our world. Notice I say “our world” because the world and our world are two very different places. For the most part, one is absolute (forgetting that whole global warming thing for a moment) and the other is in a constant state of flux and transition; often changing drastically in a matter of minutes. You and I both know people who exist side by side with someone else (often in the same house), yet each of those people live in a total different reality. You may well be that people. Er, person. Why? Because physical environment (for the most part) doesn’t determine reality, we do. We make things good or bad. Hard or easy. A lesson or a failure. An opportunity or a problem.

    A Universal Reality?

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    How you and I will experience things is determined by each of us individually, not by what “appears” to be going on to the rest of the world. There is no universal reality because every moment of every day you and I are interpreting, processing and reacting individually to a non-stop stream of information and stimuli from our physical world; the place we inhabit. Not to be confused with the place we live; our head. It could be suggested that the majority of our living (how we each experience life) is actually a cerebral, emotional and spiritual experience, not a physical one. Although some people work very hard to make their life all about the physical; which invariably leads to misery (another exploration for down the track).

    We Create Hard. And Easy.

    Yes there are universal situations, circumstances and events but there is no universal reality because things only have the meaning that we give them. Just as things only have the power (influence, control) in our lives that we allow them to have. Which also means that there are no “difficult” situations (for example); only different situations to which we each react individually. Some well, others not. Difficulty is a human construct; a label that you and I each assign to the various happenings in our world. Despite what most of us believe, there is no universal “hard” or “easy”; only our personal interpretations of, and reactions to, what goes on in our day-to-day practical lives.

    Where we Live

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    By “living in our head” I mean that our experience of the world – that is, how we see various situations, circumstances and events, how we allow those things to affect us, what they mean to us and how we react to it all – is individual, unique and self-determined. Which is why we can see two people going through what appears to be the same experience at the same time (some might erroneously say, the same reality) – a very similar court case for example – yet they are both impacted in totally different ways. One learns a valuable life-lesson, grows emotionally, becomes more aware, compassionate and enlightened, while the other suffers from extreme physical, emotional and psychological stress – all self-created by the way (situations don’t create stress, people do) – loses confidence, becomes angry and bitter and slides into a depressive state for a period of time. Why? Because the two individuals weren’t actually going through the same “experience” at all; they were each creating their own experience. One positive. One negative.

    The Puppet

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      Until we acknowledge that we each have the power to determine our own reality and create our own experiences, we will continue to be a puppet having our strings pulled by situations, events, circumstances and other people. We will continue to be the Reactor and not the Creator. Step one on the path to enlightenment, consciousness and lasting change (from the inside out) is to acknowledge that we can control our own destiny, we can each create our own reality, our world is not “the” world and our history will only become our future if we allow that to happen. Step two (in the Harper book of life-philosophy) is to understand that good or bad, hard or easy, happiness or misery are all choices – and to then live accordingly. And remember; by not making a decision, you are making a decision. Be mindful that the decisions you don’t make will have just as much impact on your personal reality as the decisions you do make. One way or the other. So don’t delude yourself. If you have the ability to think, reason and choose, then you have the ability to change your personal reality for the better. If you consistently choose to not take action, to not use your potential and to not take back the power you’ve given away, then you vicariously choose mediocrity and misery and have nobody to blame but yourself. Subscribing to the “things will work themselves out” philosophy is ignorant, naive, apathetic and shows a distinct lack of courage.

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      You are the author of your life. Start writing.

      But What About My Sick Aunty?

      Okay, I can hear some of you saying “but what about people who are diagnosed with cancer; surely their reality is decided for them?” And I would reply, is their disease their reality? Does it define them? Determine them? Is their reality determined by what’s happening to their (temporary) house? Is it possible for a terminally ill person  to experience joy, pleasure, connection, fulfillment and happiness? A personal reality of calm and contentment perhaps? Of course it is. One of life’s great curiosities is that we often see terminally ill people who are much happier (happiness being the one universal goal) than their healthy counterparts. Why? Because they have let go of that which made them unhappy; fear, insecurity, greed, anger, bitterness… ego; the destructive crap. They have created a new reality to inhabit. A much better one. While they will deal with the disease in a practical and intelligent manner, they will also have an ever-present awareness that they are not their body or their disease, therefore they do not need to be miserable. And yes, I know that this paradigm messes with our very Western thinking but that is our loss – and another example of logic and science getting in the way of potential. Cultures much more evolved than ours have understood and embraced this wisdom forever.

      One Doesn’t (need to) Equal the Other

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      In truth, the absence of physical disease doesn’t necessarily equate to happiness or success (we see evidence of this every day), just as the presence of disease doesn’t necessarily equate to misery or catastrophe. So while cancer may affect my body, there is no need for it to determine my reality. I will choose my reality, my reality will not choose me. A disease is not me and I am not it. Just as the chair that I currently sit on is not me, neither are cancerous cells that might inhabit my body, me. While others may rationalise misery and catastrophe, I will choose happiness and calm. Because I have that option. Because my reality is my choice.

      As is yours.

      Tune in for Changing Your Personal Reality -Part 2 next week.

      More by this author

      Craig Harper

      Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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      Last Updated on September 18, 2019

      How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

      How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

      Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

      I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

      One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

      Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

      The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

      And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

      What to Write Down

      Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

      Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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      Dates of Events

      Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

      For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

      Names of People

      Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

      Theories or Frameworks

      Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

      Definitions

      Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

      Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

      Arguments and Debates

      Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

      This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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      Images

      Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

      Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

      Other Stuff

      Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

      I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

      Your Own Questions

      Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

      3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

      You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

      1. Outlining

      Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

      Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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      For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

      2. Mind-Mapping

      For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

      Here’s the idea:

      In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

      The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

      If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

      You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

      3. The Cornell System

      The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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      About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

      You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

      In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

      You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

      The Bottom Line

      I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

      I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

      More About Note-Taking

      Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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