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Subjective Reality

Subjective Reality

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    Then and Now

    When I was a teenager I thought thirty-somethings were dinosaurs. Fossils. Relics. Now I think they’re teenagers. In the eighties I wanted to be a hundred kilos of muscle and five percent body-fat. Now I’m more interested in finding the ultimate cheesecake. When I was a kid I worried about my non-Catholic friends going to hell. The last time I went to mass was twenty eight years ago. I guess I’m over that. Once upon a time I wanted to please everyone. Not any more. At one stage, I thought I had pretty much figured out the whole God thing. I now realise how arrogant that was and how little I know. There was a time when I pursued society’s version of success. These days I’m more interested in my version. For a long time I chased happiness. Now I gratefully accept it. At one stage my life was full of problems. Now it’s full of lessons. For a while there I hated silence and solitude. Now I crave it. In my early twenties I thought that situations and other people created stress in my life. Now I know that I am the creator of stress. And calm. I once obsessed about what clothes I wore. Now I spend most of my life in ten dollar flannel shirts and army shorts. At one point in time, standing in front of an audience terrified me. Now it excites me. There was a phase when my body was my identity. Now it’s just where I hang out. Not long ago I had no idea what a blog was. Now it’s the vehicle by which you and I connect. The meaningless has become meaningful. But only because I made it so.

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    Opening the Door to Subjective Reality

    It’s true to say that the world I inhabited in the eighties and nineties is not the one I inhabit today. And when I say world I am not talking about some physical place or point in time. Neither am I talking about our culture. Or economic climate. Or our collective mindset. Or societal standards. Or fashion. Or technology. No, I’m talking about the ever-changing landscape that exists inside my head. The world I create and the world I inhabit day to day. As I sit here alone in my home office, it is silent. There are no people and no distractions. Just me and my thoughts. But where I’m sitting right now is not my world, it’s my location; Craig’s office in Hampton, Australia. As you may or may not know, your house number and street name have nothing to do with where you live. The message I’m now sharing with you is coming from my world. My world being the place from where my creativity arises. My world being the filter through which I observe humanity, process information, consider my observations and interpret the behaviour of others. It’s my escape when the external noise is overwhelming. It’s the place where I can explore, listen, consider, choose, feel and create. It’s a world nobody can visit unless I invite them. It’s where ideas are born and dreams are turned into plans. It’s the one place where my singing sounds good, my jokes are hilarious and my body doesn’t ache.  And while my world is the place where thinking happens, it’s also where I can escape thought and discover who I am beyond the cerebral noise. It’s the place where I can overcome fear and the place where I can transcend the sum of my life experiences in the physical world. In my world I have the capacity to overcome conventional wisdom and to explore who and what I might become beyond the self-imposed limitations, beyond the group thinking and beyond the weight of expectation.

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    My world is unique. As is yours. My world is self-created. As is yours. Knowingly or not. Intentionally or not.

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    The Stories we Tell

    While I am influenced and impacted by the three-dimensional world in which physical me resides, I am not determined by it. I will create and inhabit my own reality because I have that choice and that power. As we all do. Every day people tell themselves stories which help them deal with, process, react to and understand certain aspects of their life. In other words, they manipulate their internal reality in an effort to help them manage their external reality more effectively. Kids alter their subjective reality when they create an imaginary friend. To the adult looking on, the imaginary friend is nothing more than a childhood fantasy but to the child, the friend is a legitimate and very real part of their (self-created) world. So much so that the arrival of such a friend often brings an observable positive change in the emotional state of the child. Without ever being taught the skill, kids somehow find a way to make themselves happier. Now that is clever. That is powerful.

    The Last Bit

    Coming to the realisation that you have the ability to create your own personal reality – despite your situation, despite your circumstance, despite your history and despite your environment – is one of the most important, liberating and empowering discoveries you will ever make. When you choose to create your own reality, the sky is the limit. And no, this is not some weird-ass, abstract philosophical concept but rather, an invaluable skill – if you choose to make it that. On the other hand, if you decide that this message is nothing more than self-help mumbo-jumbo-fluff, that’s exactly what it will be. For you. Can you imagine living in a place where there are no problems, only lessons? Or a place where every day is a good day because you make that decision? Or what about a place where the only approval you need is your own? I know that for some of you this concept of finding your way to happiness and calm by learning to manage your internal environment might seem like an improbable, overly simplistic and somewhat impractical solution to (what appears to be) a very complex problem or situation. For a long time I was of the same opinion.

    Now I know better.

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    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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