Think about your everyday life and all the people you come into contact with. You probably interact with family, loved ones, relatives, friends, co-workers and a lot of strangers- clerks, waiters, mailmen, etc. We have perceptual filters that discriminate these various relationships in our lives. When we see our best friend or a close family member, we have a certain emotional-gut level reaction that tells us unconsciously, “this person is important to me”. This is natural. Then when we are walking down a street and see a stranger- we might glance at them and walk right- forgetting about them almost immediately. We don’t get that unconscious signal “this person is important to me”. These are normal. Our brain functions through an endless quantity of shortcuts to ensure our survival. Ironically, these very shortcuts and inevitably discriminating perceptual filters that our minds automatically utilizes are also responsible for our suffering. Yes, while the brain is extremely effective at keeping us alive, it is equally as ineffective at making us happy.
Just imagine you’re a single guy or a single girl. Hell, maybe you are and you don’t have to pretend. You have a general idea of which members of the opposite sex you attracted to- physically speaking. So if you walk into a store or a restaurant, you generally will look around and see if anyone in there is attractive. I’ve done this thousands, if not millions of times. It is like our brain has some sort of radar for what we want. This same effect even occurs in social and financial ways too. You see someone who is dressed a little ragged and your filter will ignore them. However if someone walks into the room dressed nicely and seems to be somewhat important or prestigious- you might ask yourself the question- “Who is he/she? What can they give me? What can they do for me?” In every area of our life, we tend to filter our experience based on who can meet our needs. Our needs for love/connection, our needs for significance, our need for survival (money). Therefore automatically, our brain is filtering out at least 90% of the people we come across in an average day- they just are pertinent to meeting these needs. You walk by someone you find to be ugly and not particularly well dressed and you pay no attention to them whatsoever. Your brain is unconsciously filtering the experience and directing you to not pay attention to them by saying “This person can do nothing for me and give me nothing”. Though this is logical for the sake of our survival- it is hugely detrimental to our emotional well being and the way we operate in the world. The selective attention we pay to certain people is holding us back and might just be the root of our unhappiness and angst as a human specie. Here is why.
When we selectively attend to only people we think can give us something or advance us in some way- we are inherently going to be fearful. You might ask, “why is that? Doesn’t it only make sense to interact people who can help to better our own lives?” While the answer might be yes, when we operate solely from the paradigm of ‘what can you do for me?’ you are going to live in a high degree of fear. The ‘looking to get’ attitude is a fear based paradigm to operate with in the world. And when you only pay attention to attractive or high status people and ignore less desirable people- you are training your brain to be in “getting mode”. Living in ‘getting mode’ ultimately equates to fear. Because what happens if you don’t get what you are going after? Feelings of loss come over you. And fear always precedes such feelings of loss. Coming to any situation with the posture of wanting or getting is likely to be rooted in some underlying fear. That is why when we are unconsciously “screening” people in our external world, we are actually conditioning ourselves to live more fearfully. When we hone in on people who can give us what we want or we perceive to be of higher value, we are really just setting expectations for the outcomes we want. Such expectations or rules are due to lead to disappointment at some point. The external world is not going to meet our expectations 100% of the time. Expectations tends to lead to fear and resistance. If you are only wanting a blue box and you don’t want a green box. You are going to be resistant of the green box and inherently fearful that you might not get the blue box that you are so desperately seeking. The actual better strategy for getting your outcomes that you desire is to understand that whether you achieve your goal or not, you are going to be perfectly okay. This is all about ‘blending’ with ‘what is’. Instead of being attached to your precise and rigid goal, being flexible and knowing how to utilize the less than perfect results that ensue is a more effective strategy. Tony Robbins has said,
“Trade your expectations for your appreciations and your world changes instantly”
Gratitude is one antidote to this dilemma of coming from a place of ‘wanting’ or ‘getting’. When you segregate your social attention to only those who can advance your own agenda, you are not being grateful for everyone else in the world- which is probably at least 95% of the population. Whether it be the clerk at the department store, the check out lady at the grocery store or the security guard in your building- when you are not grateful for each and every human life you come into contact with- you are slapping God in the face. Not only that, you are conditioning yourself to be more fearful and less happy.
Taking the time to interact with each and every person you come into contact with in the same way- at the level of their humanity- is possibly the most overlooked theme of our culture. We see the rest of the world as strangers and ignore them. We see someone not dressed like us and we want to have nothing to do with them. We are so concerned with getting our own narcissistic needs met that we turn our head to 95% of the human beings that are walking this globe with us.
The irony of this conversation is that if you lived your life in an inclusive manner and treated each and every person you interacted with as if they were the most important person in the world, you would have everything you needed in the world. Those relationships with the “important people” who you think you are going to get something from- would be even more abundant. You would be getting everything you need and a million times more. Wealthy, prestigious and attractive people would be drawn to you at even a higher rate because you would be living without fear. Seeing the humanity in each and every person would eliminate one’s scarce mindset. If you believe everyone in this world is valuable, then there is no fear of missing out or getting rejected or not getting your specific outcome.
By treating every person you come into contact with as the “most important person in the world”, you are shifting your paradigm from one of ‘wanting’ or ‘getting’ to one of ‘giving’. This giving posture eliminates all fear and scarcity. When you are treating each and every person as important- your focus is on giving and showing them love and respect. You are not focused on what you can get from them or what they can give you. Zig Ziglar perfectly captures this idea when he said:
“You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want”.
By changing your perceptual filter from one of selective attention to one of all encompassing love towards all of humanity is a life changing paradigm shift. It goes against our evolution as a specie. We were meant to see others and outsiders as threats. However in this day and age, that threat is exponentially diminished. We don’t have to live in fear. We don’t have to live in scarcity. There is so much abundance in this world, however we cut of our access to it right at the moment we create these made-up rules in our life that “only these people can give me what I want” or “only this will make me happy”. People view opportunities as scarce and limited. However, by adopting this paradigm, every person, interaction, event is an opportunity.
The final thing that adopting the paradigm of “Let Me Know This Brother As I Know Myself” is that it also strengthens your relationship with yourself. Your internal communication and level of self acceptance improves a million times when you adopt this way of being. When you go out into the world and see each and every person as your brother or sister, you are reaching a level of total acceptance. Don’t confuse this with approval. I am not saying you should condone of a murderer’s behavior, however you can accept each and every person at the level of their humanity and accept their weaknesses and shortcomings. When you can get to this level of accepting other people’s shortcomings and blind spots- you are simultaneously accepting your own weaknesses. When we reject other human beings, we are really just rejecting a part of ourselves. We are all composed on millions of different parts. Some strong, some weak. Some good, some bad. In order to master our internal communication and relationship with ourselves- we must accept all of our different parts. By loving and accepting each and every person we come into contact with, we are transforming our relationship with our self. See yourself in others and the world will start to conspire in your favor. It is really weird how life works out when you start to see the best in everyone and begin to accept their flaws.
This is the portrait of full congruence. Accepting all parts of oneself- both good and bad. Ironically, this is also the first step to changing anything about yourself. If your external world does not fit your blueprint, it is not the external world that needs to change. It is you and your blueprint that needs to change. Our paradigm in which we operate in this world runs our life. This is why happy people tend to be happy despite what kind of shit happens in their life. It is also why angry people tend to get angry irrespective of all the good that might happen to them.
The first step to shifting your paradigm and changing your model of the world is to admit that you are wrong. Yes you are wrong. This is the step that most people never get past. They would rather be right and miserable, then wrong and liberated. If you really want a new life you must admit that all your prior perceptions, beliefs, attitudes and thoughts are erroneous. It is about wiping the slate clean and living in the perplexing reality that the world you have been experiencing for the past however many years of your life is nothing more than your own distorted view of the world.
Letting go old beliefs about yourself and the world is one of the most challenging things a person can do in their lifetime. It is the only way to a different life. It is the only way to more peace, love, freedom, enthusiasm, contribution and growth.