Do You Know Your Three “R’s”?

We’ve been talking a great deal in recent blogs about how to distinguish between reality and your perceptions. You do, we learned, have control over how you feel about a situation. Why is this so important to understand?

Because your flawed or skewed perceptions of reality can actually alter reality. Let me explain:

Let’s go back one more time to the case from a previous personal development blog. You called your brother for his birthday and he hung up abruptly. You immediately translate this as, “He doesn’t care about me.” Now, yesterday we talked about how to challenge that perception by coming up with alternative explanations. But let’s say you don’t do this. “He doesn’t care about me!” you conclude, and you’re hurt and angry. What happens next?

One possible scenario:

You stew. You secretly hope he’ll call you later with a good explanation, but when he doesn’t, you stew some more. You mutter to your wife that it’s too back you come from a family where people don’t care about each other. You come across a re-run of Legends of the Fall on late night TV and snort cynically when Tristan vows to protect his younger brother Samuel in the war. A couple of weeks later, your sister calls and lets you know that your brother’s teen daughter has gotten into some serious trouble.

“I’m not surprised,” you say. “You can’t raise a kid well if you’re filled with hatred and emotionally distant from people you’re supposed to care about.”

Your sister is shocked by your callous response, but then, she doesn’t understand how he treats you, right? Eventually, of course, probably not directly, your comment gets back to your brother. The rift between you is cemented.

Is it always that simple and straight-forward? Of course not. Normally, we base a series of small, seemingly unimportant decisions on misperceptions, but, over time, the results are just as devastating.

Take a good look at the chart, Anatomy of a Key Moment, and ask yourself if you know the Three R’s of personal development:

• Reality. What is, or the way things are. Reality exists independently of our opinions about it. Embrace it and find peace. Resist it and find pain.
• Responsibility. The choices we make about how to think, feel, and act about reality. The quality of our life depends on our ability to make good choices
• Results. The consequences or outcomes we get from the choices we make. Results are a function of the other two R’s.

In our example, the reality was, as we discovered in a previous blog, that we don’t know why your brother hung up suddenly. You have no other new information, except what your sister has given you: his daughter is in trouble. You are responsible for (a) how you feel, and (b) what you do next. When we worked through the possible meanings of your brother’s actions, we ended up with a feeling of sort of neutral concern. Only then, when you’ve separated perception from fact, is it time to decide what action to take. And, finally, you have the results. Perhaps you decided to call again, and express your concern that something was wrong. The result could have been more information:

• An admission that your brother was angry at you. Now you have the opportunity to resolve the issue.
• A confused, “Oh, wow . . . I must have been busy. I didn’t realize I hung up suddenly. Sorry about that, bro.”
• A confession about another issue, “Yeah, sorry. I’m not even thinking about my birthday right now. Madison’s having some problems and we’re not sure what’s going to happen.” Now you have the opportunity to heal your fractured relationship by reaching out to him with a listening ear or an offer to help.

It’s so simple, isn’t it, when we look at an imaginary example where our emotions aren’t really involved? It’s still simple in real life, but it’s challenging. As soon as your emotions engage, you will feel moved to take action. Particularly in the beginning, it takes a certain amount of mental effort to turn on your reasoning powers and challenge your perceptions. But what did your piano teacher used to say? “Practice makes perfect!”

I promise you, practicing this mathematic equation: Reality + Responsibility = Results is just as effective as practicing playing Ode to Joy with your right hand . . . and will have far, far more long-reaching effects on your life.



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