What do you choose to see in your reality?

You may not see the positive effects you create as they ripple out of your sight. And you may not see yourself making any difference because you don’t expect to.

You just invited employees to voice objections to a new plan – with the aim of improving the plan. But no one spoke up.
Nothing seems changed. Your expectation was confirmed. Employees don’t care. You should have known it. You can’t make a difference with these employees.

You may be right. But could you be wrong?

Our eyesight is deceptive. Most people regard the eyes as cameras who objectively observe the world. But various research has shown that we tend to see what we expect. Our brains interfere with what our eyes observe.

We tend to see what we expect. Our brains interfere with what our eyes observe Click To Tweet

From a myriad of stimuli, we’re inclined to notice those that fit our world views and meet our expectations. Next, we extrapolate what might happen based on earlier experiences – but just because a situation appears the same doesn’t mean it is – and your expectations may not come true.

No one spoke up – that’s an observable fact. But that doesn’t mean that employees don’t care, nor does it prove that nothing has changed.

The world is ultimately virtual – because we can only access reality through our senses and our brains.
Everyone has their own experience of what just happened… emphasizing certain data over other stimuli, filtering and judging it from their personal point of view.

Everyone creates a personal version of reality – because reality’s true bit size (google-bytes of data) is way too much information to take in. We must filter and select to handle it.

We cannot comprehend reality completely

No one spoke up – but they all heard the question to raise objections to improving the plan.

Some are still mulling it over and they hope to get back to you with a clever recommendation. They’ve noticed your tone: you’ve asked a genuine question, and you’d appreciate their contribution.

Others have no clue about improvements, but they appreciate the question anyway – it’s a signal that you mean well and that you are open to feedback from employees, theoretically. They noticed you making eye contact and concluded you’re not so bad.

Some people start wondering what this organization would be like if more leaders asked for objections, second thoughts, and improvements like you did. A simmer of hope enlightens their heart – and they decide to look out for more signs that the leadership of this organization takes employees more seriously.

One person hopes to ask this same question next Monday when the team he supervises meets. He loved it. He may have forgotten by Monday – but the seed was planted, and it may grow if you water it again.

A few people don’t trust your question because they don’t trust leaders. You sounded just like all the hypocrite bosses they’ve had before. It’s a pro forma question and when you answer it – you’ll end up on the blacklist, or so they think. They noticed your frown after you asked the question (but that was just your frustration about their deafening silence).

Because you’re inclined to expect something you anticipate it – perhaps invoking the effect you expected – whether that was positive or negative.

You’ve asked for objections before. No one ever spoke up. You decided you had to try again because you know no other way to engage employees. You did your best to entice them, and sound inviting, but your frustration was just around the corner. This silence – people avoiding eye contact – the vacuum. It comes down to you again. You need to save this organization because these employees just don’t care.

Reality boils down to what you choose to see

You may choose to see the passive response of employees and draw conclusions – or you focus on their potential and how you can awaken and support them. This question you asked, was just the beginning.

You can focus on how you can’t change the world: “There’s only one of me, and the world is too large.” This mindset might make you feel condemned to the exhausting Sisyphus labor of pushing rocks uphill that will roll back to the ground the minute you let go, without making any “real” difference.

Or you can focus on how you make a positive difference in small acts that will be copied by others. Your small acts will ripple in different directions to influence the world in ways you cannot comprehend right now.

If you start to embody the change, you might increase your positive impact Click To Tweet

If you see the relative, ever-changing nature of reality and the complex, systemic features of our world, there’s no need to discourage or criticize yourself for not making a difference. You already do by being part of this world.

If you start to embody the change you want to see, you might increase your positive impact.

Maybe – a Zen Parable

A farmer’s horse ran away. His neighbors gathered upon hearing the news and said sympathetically, “That’s such bad luck.”
“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The horse returned on his own the next morning and brought seven wild horses with it. “Look how many more horses you have now,” the neighbors exclaimed. “How lucky!”
“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next day, the farmer’s son attempted to ride one of the wild horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. “How awful,” the neighbors said. “It looks like your luck has turned for the worse again.”
The farmer simply replied, “Maybe.”

The following day, military officers came to town to conscript young men into the service. Seeing the son’s broken leg, they rejected him. The neighbors gathered round the farmer to tell him how fortunate he was.
“Maybe,” said the farmer.

This is book post # 15 – level: ME

Here’s the earlier post
Here‘s the next post

If you’re confused – please start with post #1 or check the Positive Power overview and read the Positive Agent Manifesto.

Leaders, employees, consultants, citizens – everyone can make a positive difference from any position, without needing permission or resources from others. This blog will help you see positive possibilities and (re)claim your positive agency. Unstuck yourself and engage others via your interaction and actions. Transform into a positive organization where people and performance thrive.

I’m blogging my next book: “Positive Power at Work – How to make a positive difference from any position.” Your feedback is appreciated!

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