Life is a Mirror Reflecting Your Inner World

One of the most interesting and challenging parts of running a startup is navigating all the cool and quirky differences between each person and fostering a high functioning team that can communicate, connect with each other, and ultimately grow together. One of the biggest challenges, but also I think one of the biggest opportunities, that can stand in the way of all of this is how differently each person sees the world. Far too often, we see a problem or a situation so clearly that we couldn't even fathom someone else seeing things from another perspective. But we're always oh-so-wrong.

When people are making decisions, responding to events, or interpreting situations, we each fall back on very individualistic, habitual mental programs. We characterize, see, and ultimately navigate situations based on these programs that we run, on default, in our heads. And my default settings are totally different than yours. So how we each see the world, and therefore our interactions and problems within it, is tightly tied to who and how we are as individuals, instead of as how it really is, or how it is for someone else.

This means that as we move throughout our day, talking to our friends, family, and colleagues, trying to work together or resolve issues, we aren't aligned on how we see the situation. I'm wearing rose coloured glasses, my world is undoubtedly pink, and I assume yours is too. But your world is green. If I said the world is pink, and you the world is green, neither of us are wrong. But we aren't right, either. We just have different perspectives.

A photo of a monkey looking at a mirror

I find that once you realize this, and I mean really consider and digest this, it can create two really incredible opportunities. First, as a member of a team, you'll suddenly see endless scenarios where people are speaking totally different languages and are completely unaware of it. If you're like me, you'll spend a good week with your mind blown over how we even manage to function at all. But then you'll start to see miscommunications and mishaps as opportunities to see a totally different perspective and build a bridge to an island of common understanding. You might even learn something along the way 😉

The second super dope opportunity that arises is a personal growth moment. After a while, once you become acutely aware of all the different possible perspectives that could be flying around in a scenario, you might start to question your own perspectives. What if there are alternative ways to see situations, to see the world, that could result in you being a happier, healthier, more productive, more fulfilled you? To explore this, we have to focus in on the mental programs that we run, our default reactions, our mindsets. Who we are and how we are deeply impact how we see the world.

I think the hard part about this process is that we must face the reality that our ideas and ways of thinking could be improved, and may even be flawed and detrimental. This can cause us to get very protective and defensive, especially when others are involved and we want to appear in control, right, smart, perfect. But all that does is create a chasm of denial between what is true and what we wish was true. And that chasm gets in the way of everything.

I think a helpful framework for navigating the chasm and ultimately getting to a place of growth opportunity is to stop thinking of traits or perspectives as perfect, right, wrong, good, bad. My way vs your way. And instead, to start thinking of everything as having tradeoffs. For every trait, every perspective, there are tradeoffs. For example, what's your perspective on worrying? One possible perspective is that worrying causes undue stress on the person and those around them. Another is that worrying mitigates the risk of bad outcomes. Instead of seeing one perspective as right or wrong, we could instead see worrying as having tradeoffs (increase stress, decrease risk of bad outcome) that can be identified by seeing different perspectives. Then, with all the judgement removed, we can start to see that all of our default ways of being have tradeoffs that need to be managed, which we can identify by seeing the different perspectives of situations that were previously only rose-coloured. Now I see your green. And if I like your green, perhaps I'll adapt myself and become a happier me.

For more resources of these topics, check out this Learning Path.


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