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Our Lying Eyes

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Amuse Bouche

My amuse bouche for you today is a light “dad joke” to entertain your mind before we get down to business. Like any other amuse bouche, you may hate it, but it is worth every penny that you paid for it, right?

In a recent accident, a truck containing thousands of copies of Roget’s thesaurus overturned spilling its load on the highway. Witnesses were stunned, startled, aghast, taken aback, shocked, flabbergasted….

Goal Success by Choice

Do you have dreams that you are trying to make come true? Do you have a goal that you are trying to crush? Success doesn’t happen by chance. You don’t have to get lucky or win the lottery to live the life of your dreams. 

You just have to choose to be successful. If you make the right daily choices, adopt good habits and behaviors, and approach life with the right mindset, you can make your dreams come true. 

Goal Success by Choice helps you make the choices that will move you closer to your goals and keep you from holding yourself back. 

I hope this post helps you get a little closer to crushing your goals.

Our Lying Eyes

“Your brain does not give a flying fig about your happiness, it only cares about your safety.”

Rebecca Wiener McGregor

Have you ever had an experience where you couldn’t believe your eyes? I am talking about your brain quite literally perceiving something differently from reality.

I had heard many stories about this condition as it pertains to witnesses of crimes. Often, eyewitnesses will tell their story of what they saw during a crime, a story very different from the truth. This is also a popular storyline in many television shows too.

I had never really experienced this phenomenon until my weight loss. I talk in my book about how I was the last person to see the changes in my body. After losing fifty pounds, I really wasn’t able to see a physical difference in my body. Even today, I sometimes look in the mirror and still see the old me.

It isn’t until I look at photos of myself that I genuinely see the difference between my 325-pound body and the fit and healthy body I have today.

Why is it that there are times that we cannot believe our lying eyes?

Team Effort

It isn’t fair to blame our eyes for lying to us; they aren’t acting alone. The eyes see the truth nearly flawlessly, but then they relay that information to the real culprit, our brains. It is when our brains get reliable information from our eyes that the lie takes shape.

Without our brains, our senses don’t do much for us. Everything that our senses tell us gets interpreted by our brain. Our brain, in turn, decodes the information and decides what to do about it. So, when your eyes lie to you, it is based on how the brain interprets what they are seeing.

Brains are very complex computers that are constantly processing information. According to one study, the human brain can process eleven million bits of information every second. Like any other computer, these bits of information are processed through our programming. This programming includes a set of filters that our brain has developed for how data gets processed.

We are often unaware of the filters that our brain has developed and is applying to the information we are processing. This is because, while our brains can process millions of bits per second, our conscious minds can really only handle about fifty. The other millions of bits of information get processed unconsciously, and that’s when our eyes, our brains really, can start to lie to us.

Hey, Look, A Shortcut!

Our brains have a lot of work to do, and our unconscious minds have tons of information to process in a split second. This has led to our brains developing some shortcuts to make the work a little easier.

Unfortunately, the shortcuts our brain uses can lead to dangerous split-second conclusions. These harmful side effects include the development of unconscious bias.

Bias can take many forms, including applying automatic stereotypes, attitudes or preferences (positive or negative) to specific groups of people. We aren’t consciously aware that we are doing this, but our brains have developed programming and shortcuts to automatically interpret certain information despite what the facts really tell us.

Unconscious bias can have detrimental impacts in all areas of our lives. When unchecked, bias can directly harm ourselves and others.

Going Negative

One type of bias that has a terrible impact on us, and leads to our lying eyes, is negativity bias.

Negativity bias is the tendency for our brain to focus on negative information and prioritize it over the positives. This bias developed through thousands of years of evolution.

The primary job of our brain is to protect us. Throughout history, our brains have learned to interpret negative items as threats. This means that the brain will focus on that one little snake instead of the acres of beautiful flowers. Our brain is just trying to protect us.

Because our brains interpret negative things as threats to be managed, our eyes tend to focus on our problem areas in the mirror. We often struggle to see the positive truth about ourselves. It is also why one criticism of ourselves stands out more than the hundred compliments that accompany it.

Unscrupulous people have learned to turn our negativity bias against us because it means big bucks for them.

Why are there so many negative headlines and news stories? Many news outlets have figured out that our brains will fixate on negative information. Negative news will keep us hooked, meaning we will see more advertising that accompanies that news.

Similarly, some companies work hard to fuel our negative body image. By doing so, we can turn to them for ways to cure our problems (like fad diets, pills, etc.) or at least to escape from them.

Our brain doesn’t care if we are happy; it only cares if we are safe. This means that our brain fixates on threats and negativity, and it quickly dismisses positive information. As a result, we resist change, develop skewed body images, create negative self-talk, and ignore what is right in our lives.

The bias that our brain develops can destroy our happiness and that of the people around us.

We Are Not Helpless

Like many other areas of our lives, to successfully challenge our bias and see the truth, we have to choose discipline over default behavior (see Discipline Not Default). If we decide to be deliberate with how we manage our biases, we can keep them at bay and bring more happiness into the world.

Facts First

When confronted with a situation where your eyes may lie to you, collect some facts.

In my continuing body image example, I stopped to review the numbers. I considered my pounds lost, the inches I removed from my body (e.g., clothing sizes), and my newly-developed capabilities. As my weight has increased over the past year, I have looked at the corresponding increases in strength, muscle size, and definition. This helped make it clear to me that I have not gained the “wrong” weight.

Our brains are big computers and love to process information. If we give them the right inputs, we can help prevent them from taking shortcuts and letting the bias take over.

Challenge Your Decisions

When making a decision, especially when deciding how you feel about something, challenge yourself and ask why. Is this decision considering the facts you have fed your brain, or is it a default decision you’ve trusted to autopilot?

Often, just by pressing pause and asking why we feel the way we do, we shock our brains back into thinking instead of taking our bias shortcuts.

Take Partners

Spend some time talking to others about the places where their eyes lie to them and know that you aren’t in this alone. By building a support network where you can challenge each other’s biases, you can help pivot back to reality instead of the mental shortcuts. Plus, having people who are honest with you helps make sure that you are considering all of the information, not just cherry-picking the information that reinforces your bias.

A coach is a great partner in your quest to challenge your limiting beliefs and biases.

Reflection and Gratitude

Finally, spend time every day focusing on what is going well in your life and gratitude. By spending even a few minutes each day writing down two or three things you are grateful for, you will begin to change your brain’s programming. This will help you balance the tendency to only see the negatives with a healthy dose of positivity.

So What?

Each one of us faces moments when our eyes lie to us. Is it is your body image? Are you unconsciously believing in stereotypes? Regardless of what type of bias is clouding your ability to see the truth, you have the power to overcome that bias. Like many other areas of your life, you can choose a disciplined, deliberate approach and find the truth with your lying eyes.

Are you looking for a partner to help get your eyes to stop lying to you? Let me help.

Click Here to learn more about my Operation Melt coaching services.

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Published inGoal Success by Choice

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