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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 July 8, 2020

      3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

      3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

      It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

      This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

      Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

      When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

      This is why setting priorities is so important.

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      3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

      There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

      1. Eat a Frog

      There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

      Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

      When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

      2. Move Big Rocks

      Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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      You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

      If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

      For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

      To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

      In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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      3. Covey Quadrants

      If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

      Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

      1. Important and Urgent
      2. Important and Not Urgent
      3. Not Important but Urgent
      4. Not Important and Not Urgent

        The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

        Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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        You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

        Getting to Know You

        Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

        In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

        These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

        More Tips for Effective Prioritization

        Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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