When people ask me for my best advice, I typically reply, “Stop believing everything you think.”
There was a time when I was helping teach social psychology at a local university, and our topic was how the ego works over time to project its filter onto the world. So, at the beginning of class, I placed a little speck of paper on the lens of the projector, not on the screen, and as I started class, I pretended to suddenly notice an object up on the screen. It was blocking and distorting a clear view. Without pointing to the screen, I asked a couple of students, “Could you go up and make sure we have a better view of the work and make sure that projection is clearly coming through? It looks like there’s something that is blotting out part of the screen.”
I did this experiment multiple times with several groups, and each time the students would go immediately to the screen to see what was there, when, in fact, the little piece of paper I had planted was on the lens of the projector. It took a while for people to figure out that it was the lens, and not the screen, that was obstructing the view.
When what we’re experiencing in our lives is disturbing our peace—it is not necessarily reality. It’s not the screen that needs to be fixed or cleaned up; it’s actually the lens with which you’re viewing reality.
The lesson in all of this is that most of the time when the life we’re seeing feels stressful—when what we’re experiencing in our lives is disturbing our peace—it is not necessarily reality. It’s not the screen that needs to be fixed or cleaned up; it’s actually the lens with which you’re viewing reality. This is more than just positive thinking; it’s getting clear about the facts of your situation so that you can separate your self-imposed stress and suffering from your reality.
Your ego is not your amigo.
Your ego is a filter on the world. It’s constantly narrating your reality, and if you believe everything you think, you’ll perceive a very distorted view of reality. The ego distorts your world by acting like a pair of glasses with the wrong prescription. So, instead of having a quality view of reality, this ego is always filtering and distorting your circumstances, creating thoughts that our bosses are incompetent, co-workers are lazy and our toxic cultures are preventing success. The behaviors and actions you take as a result of these thoughts are based on corrupted data.
One of the best things that you can do after you become aware of this chattering filter is to question your thoughts and make a choice whether you should believe the narrator in your mind. While the ego is working hard to paint us as a victim of our circumstances, trying to assure us success would come if only circumstances were different, there’s a way to bypass the ego and stand out as a true leader.
Here are three ways to refocus for success.
1. Separate your stress from your reality.
One of the most priceless things that’s ever happened to me was noticing that I am not that voice inside my head, and that this ego is different than the confidence required to fuel my abilities. Once you discover the difference between ego and confidence, you, too, can start to tune in and listen to what that ego narrator is saying, giving you the most wonderful choice in the world: whether or not to believe the information it’s giving you. That’s where incredible freedom comes from.