Foundational Thinking Patterns That Can Change Your Life

a mirror symbolizing our world and reality is a reflection of our inner selves

When you look at your life and the world around you, you’re just observing what’s out there, right? It sure seems that the world exists a certain way, and you’re viewing it objectively.

That may be the lens through which you’ve been viewing things for a long time. But despite the fact that it makes sense in your head, it’s not helping you be the person you want to be or find what you’re looking for in life.

It’s time to reassess your foundational thinking patterns.

You aren’t observing things as they are. Rather, you are observing things as you are. That’s a powerful realization. Once you grasp it — and shift your thinking accordingly — it will become the foundation for the transformation work in your life.

The Dirt in the Mirror

If you look in the mirror and see dirt on your face, what are you going to do about it? Will you wipe the mirror to remove the dirt? Of course not. That won’t accomplish anything. You know full well that getting rid of that dirt will require scrubbing your face.

Someone with a dirty face looking into a mirror

That much is obvious to you. But what you might not realize is that your experience with reality is a whole lot like this situation.

Sure, it seems like you’re experiencing objective reality in the world around you — just like it seems that there’s dirt right there in front of you, ready for you to reach out and wipe it off.

But the image that you’re looking at in the world is actually created from within you. You reflect it outward.

If you try to change and control what’s outside of you — well, that’s no different from trying to rub the dirt off the mirror instead of dealing with the smudge on your face.

I know, I know. Intuitively, it seems you’re experiencing reality objectively. We certainly don’t feel like we’re making it up or creating it out of ourselves.

But I want to give you a whole new way of thinking about reality and your experiences in the world. Try this on for size: You’re never directly contacting reality.

Shifting Your Understanding of Reality

The outside world is there, just as it is. And, it does objectively exist.

But our five senses are how we come into contact with the world. Those senses create our interpretations. Through our senses, we take in information. Then we look for patterns and assign meaning. That forms our understanding and shapes the language we use.

Throughout it all, we are never having real and direct contact with objective reality. We are having contact with our experience of our sensory input of reality. There’s a gap there.

Do you remember the kids’ game Telephone? In this classic activity, a whispered message is passed from one listener to the next. The goal of the game is to see how messed up the message becomes by the time it reaches the last listener. It’s usually good for plenty of silly laughs.

But our contact with reality can be a whole lot like that game. Things become distorted, deleted or generalized.

And then, as we go along living our lives, we start to treat our beliefs about the world as if they are true. But what if we’re not even understanding the idea of truth correctly?

Discovering The Nature of Truth

I’m going to break something to you, and you might not be too comfortable with it at first: Truth isn’t something we have access to.

The reality level of the world contains infinite data. You, in your sensory experience and interpretation of the world, do not have access to that infinite data. So any version that you’re telling yourself about reality is necessarily going to be limited.

Therefore, it is not the whole truth. It can’t possibly be that.

Yes, you can have what feels true to you. But if your goal is to discover truth in its entirety, then you’re on a fool’s errand.

When you’re looking at the world and trying to fit all the pieces together, you might tell yourself that you understand truth. You know what life is like, or you know what people are like.

But when it boils down to it, you have only a small sliver of understanding of what the world is like. It’s all filtered through your sensory experiences and interpretations.

The World Reflects Who You’re Being

Rather than aiming for objective reality or complete truth, there’s another way to present yourself in the world. It’s an approach that will help you love yourself and have a more enjoyable, enlivened self.

Here’s what I want you to know: Who you are being is primary. What you do and what you have is secondary.

The world out there as you experience it is a reflection of you. You are not a reflection of it. The world is reflecting who you are being.

Perhaps you have a belief about people. You think you see evidence of that belief out in the world. But what you are actually observing is a reflection of your being.

The same goes for the beliefs you have about yourself. If you believe a certain thing about yourself and see evidence of it in the world, it doesn’t mean that belief is objective truth. Nope, it is simply a reflection of your being.

Your Inner Stance

Let’s think about how this could play out in your life. Pretend that you think that the world is dangerous and people can’t be counted on. It may seem to you that those are immutable truths.

But try rephrasing it:

  • I am being that the world is dangerous.
  • I am being that other people can’t be counted on.

Wow. If that’s who you’re being — and the world around you reflects that being — how will it affect your availability and your capacity to be in relationship with others? Will you be likely to step up and lead? Will you choose to take risks? Probably not.

But once you know that your experience in the world reflects your being, you can shift your approach to life.

So I encourage you to think about your inner stance. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the location that I’m choosing to stand in?
  • What is the perspective that I’m looking at the world through?
  • What are the thoughts with which I’m looking at the world? The feelings?
  • What things am I telling myself?
  • What are the belief structures I’m using to filter the world’s infinite data?

Clayton’s Story

My friend Clayton Olson is a great example of someone who’s done the work of paying attention to his inner stance.  He’s personally seen how a shift in perspective has made all the difference in how he shows up in his life.

Working with therapists and coaches, he’s come to some realizations about his younger years. He’ll be the first to tell you that those realizations might not be objectively true, but they’re more useful and feel so much truer in his system.

The first is that the emotional abuse and neglect he experienced as a child weren’t his fault. They didn’t happen because he was inherently flawed or broken in some way.

Rather, it was damage being passed downstream from his parents and their parents and the relatives who came before them. As a child, he was simply in the blast radius of that damage. The blame isn’t his to carry.

Clayton also came to see not only his parents’ imperfections but also how powerful they were. He realized that they had been doing the best that they could. They were energetic spiritual powerhouses in their own right.

Even though they didn’t do everything right, Clayton still has the strength and the foundation of their consciousness behind him. That knowledge pushes him deeper into life so that he is now able to thrive.

Freedom to Show Up the Way You Want

When you shift your perspective on reality and understand that you bring your being to the world you experience, it frees you to show up in a new way. You can break old patterns in which you’d previously felt stuck and create your own life.

Take confidence, for instance. Maybe you feel hopelessly plagued with low self-esteem. But there are times in life when you’ve been confident. Sure, there are other times when you’ve been less so. But neither state is the whole truth.

So make the choice to operate from an inner stance of confidence. When you believe that you are confident, how are you going to show up at your next meeting? Your next sales call? Your next date?

When you believe that you are a confident person, then you suddenly start to behave like a confident person. That is useful in the world.

Trust me, messing with your beliefs about reality and truth isn’t just some sort of psychic masturbation.

Rather, shifting your foundational thinking patterns has the potential to change your life. It frees you to show up in the world in the way that you want to be.

I know that the ideas I’ve presented here are rather philosophical, and you may want to wrestle with them a bit before they start to sink in. To help, I encourage you to listen to Clayton and me discuss these concepts in Episode 23 of The Shift to Freedom Podcast.
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