Upon self-reflection, it always amazes me what the brain decides to store away and, subsequently, retrieve at any given time. Even among all the chatter of new technologies and the not-too-distant prospect of artificial intelligence, I cannot imagine we will ever virtualize, or imitate, the true working of the human mind. It’s simply too complicated of an algorithm when we insert the all-random variables that relate to emotion.
The human brain, an incredible hard drive that may very well store every second of every event in our rear-view mirror. The human mind, a computer that warehouses memories and constantly catalogs, re-sorts, retrieves, removes, inserts, and restores images to the front of the line in what often feels like a random chaotic never-ending story being recited and visualized internally as we progress through our day. And what a story it is. Ruminations, images in still shots, images in moving video, smiles, frowns, learnings, regrets, and everything in between.
And as I mentioned, it always amazes me what the brain decides to store away and then retrieve at any given time.
One memory that surfaces frequently for me is a moving picture image of a twenty-second conversation I had over twenty-five years ago. I was talking to an older gentleman who had moved to Alberta, Canada for a brief career assignment after living in the same small town his entire life to that date. I asked him, “How did you enjoy living in Alberta when all you knew was your home town in Ontario?” His response was, “Home is where you hang your hat.” Home is where you hang your hat. In seven words, he framed his belief system; he created an entire narrative that told me how he approaches change, how he decides to make the best of any situation, how he lives his life. I remember feeling a sense of calm from this man, yet also a small fraction of envy. I recall wishing I had this same sense of peace of mind. Home is where you hang your hat. What a great tagline to the movie we call life. What a great way to frame the screenplay.
If you do an internet search on self-help books, you will be able to pick from millions of titles. Millions. And within these millions of books, many of them will tell you the exact same thing, although possibly using different words. This single theme that is common in all theories of self-help is that life is what you make it. Life is what you decide it will be. Life is attitude. Life is how you frame the story. Happy. Sad. It’s completely up to you. That event that sucked yesterday – will you learn from it or allow it to beat you down? Completely up to you. When you fall off the horse, do you stay down or get back on the horse? Completely up to you. Would you rather play and lose as opposed to not playing at all? Completely up to you. Is life nothing but pain and suffering or is life an amazing gift to be cherished?
The answer is completely up to you. It’s your choice how you frame the story. This is the single number one lesson to any form of self-help. You get to decide.
Ahh, the simplicity of it all. It’s so easy, is it not? Just decide to be happy. No problem. QED. Problem solved! Hmm, simple in theory, but not so elementary in execution. Yet, we can, in fact, follow the age-old saying that it is not what happens to you in life, but rather how you decide to react to the happenings. And this theory is based on one sound premise. That we are in control of the frame of the story. That we can decide the narrative of any life event in order to turn the negative into positive. However, to do so takes practice. Some focused practice. And this practice begins with a first step. And this first step is to work towards understanding our own biases. That is, we need to understand our own biases to better relate to why we frame stories the way we do, to better understand why we see the world the way we do, to fully grasp why we are creating and watching the movie we are watching. To fully grasp why we decide what to decide relative to how we react to the events of our day.
A bias is defined as a strong inclination of the mind or a preconceived opinion about someone or something. Our biases will set up how we see the world, how we frame the story in front of us, how we play out the movie of our lives. And this all makes sense as we only know what we know, and our attitudes and beliefs are a function of what we know and how we chose to use this internal knowledge.
Yet, where do biases come from? Initially they come from our upbringing, our cultural experiences relative to race, religion, nationality, and societal norms. And then we build upon this foundation with education, life experience in the form of mistakes and successes, risks taken, rewards received, all while deciding just how much to give life a shot while gathering and assembling lessons learned. And then, after years of living, we develop and dogmatize our biases based on these collective experiences. We decide whether to smile or frown, we decide whether life is good or bad, we decide whether to love or hate, we decide what and who we see when we look at another human being, we decide what and who we see when we look in the mirror. We decide exactly how we will frame the story. We decide what we believe to be truth.
Yet, at times, we fail to recognize there is a very dangerous aspect of allowing our biases to frame our story. You see, once our biases are firmly implanted, the story may never change, and we may simply live our lives in routine, never changing the scene, never exploring a new plot, never inserting new characters, or possibly changing the outcome of the movie. And even worse than this, we may spend our lives looking for, and embracing only those things that confirm our biased view of the world while ignoring anything that may teach us to see life through a new lens. We may never actually have the courage to admit that perhaps there is a better story out there that could possibly improve our condition, improve the condition of our community, improve the condition of our world.
This is the gift of looking at life through a non-biased view in order to change what we believe to be truth. And this is critical in our society today as we are living in a world that has actually now been coined the “post truth era.” Where truth is not based on fact or visible outcomes, but rather truth is a function of how we frame the story in order to convince others what to believe, all of it being an art and science in manipulating people through an orchestration of playing to their negative biases.
Ahh, what a world. On one hand, one could say, “What a messed up, broken world we live in;” and then on the other hand, one could say, “What a crazy, wild, fantastic world this is.” It’s all about what we choose to believe. It’s all about the frame. It’s all about the story.
Stories shape our beliefs, and beliefs create our existence. Once we believe this, we can, in fact, use this knowledge to create a better life, to create a better world. This can be accomplished by changing the tone of the story to reshape our beliefs in order to create a better existence. That is, we can question our own biases to reframe the story in a such a way as to create beliefs that are more positive, benevolent, empathic, and constructive.
Let’s shift the tone to stories that matter. Stories that matter are stories that describe the positive going on in our world. Stories about people who live with enthusiasm, interest, and passion for actions and events that support kindness and respect for people and the earth. And as story-shifters, we can become a community. A community that is not interested in hate, anger, fear, negative biases, or divisiveness. A community where we recognize the only way to make the world a better place is to sound off more positive vibes than negative vibes. Where we recognize that life is short, and it’s critical to take time for what is important. To take time to see the positive in the world, to believe in the good of people, in the diversity of people, and to live a life surrounded by nature, sport, art, poetry, music, and interesting people with great stories. In other words, to take time to Drift and Hum.
Now, with a little Drift and Hum, will all people suddenly become kind and peaceful? I suspect not overnight, as the human being is not known for learning any important lesson too quickly. Will we suddenly eradicate the earth of war, famine, corruption, misogyny, and bigotry? I suspect not overnight, as the human being likes to take its sweet time while walking the path of justice, humanity, and common sense. However, I make these statements recognizing that my own negative bias exists. A negative bias where my life experience to date could possibly leave me with a negative framed view of the world. A framed movie where the human being is a flawed cast member, where violence and suffering prevail, where evil wins over love, where common sense is wrestled to the ground where it ultimately submits to greed, madness, and a gross lack of human grace. A world where nice guys do, in fact, finish last.
Or, perhaps I can reframe this view of the world. Perhaps I can edit and rescript the screenplay of the movie I’m watching.
Perhaps I can believe that I should attempt to be the change I want in the world. Perhaps I can fully recognize that I am not suffering and should be action oriented to help those that truly are. Perhaps I can wake up and understand that my daily struggles and challenges are not even remotely true struggles or challenges as compared to others. That if I witnessed real struggle firsthand, I would be infinitely embarrassed by the fact that I have ever felt sorry for myself. Yes, perhaps I can be smart enough to question my personal biases in order to reshape my own belief system where my new view of the world has been framed by no one but myself through reflection and learning relative to my own experiences, through my own thoughts, resulting in my own conclusions on what is right and wrong. Where the true truth will prevail.
Yes, perhaps I can find a way to shift the tone of the story. To shift the tone to stories that matter. Yes, to stories that, in fact, do describe the positive going on in our world. Amazing stories about people who live with enthusiasm, interest and passion for actions and events that support kindness and respect for people and the earth. Yes, and then maybe we can develop a community of likeminded people. A global community where we recognize the only way to make the world a better place is to have more positive vibes than negative vibes. Where all of us recognize that life is short and it’s critical to take time for what is important. To take time to see the positive in the world, to believe in the good of people, in the diversity of people, and to live a life surrounded by nature, art, sport, poetry, music, and interesting people with great stories.
Yes, that sounds like a great plan. I think it’s time to start this shift.
And perhaps a place filled with optimistic people sounding positive vibes would be a great place to hang our hats. To hang our hats indeed.
Take time, Friends.
Let’s take time to shift the story.
Let’s take time to Drift and Hum.