“It’s not what you look at that matters. It’s what you see.”
– Henry David Thoreau
If you google the definition of Perception, here’s what will pop up:
1) The state of being or process of becoming aware of something through the senses.
2) A way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.
Perception is a noun. A person, place, or thing. I think we can narrow this down to being a thing. So perception is a thing that you have. Okay, fair enough. So what does it look like? What does it do? How is mine different from yours? And what the heck does this have to do with proactive methods to improve our quality of life?
Past, present, and future experiences
Our perception is created from our past experiences, both positive and negative. Each person’s perception is unique to their own life. Before I learned differently, my first impression of yoga was that you have to go into all these crazy flexy bendy poses. This narrow perception kept me away from trying yoga for a long time. I based my perception (which could also be considered a preconceived notion) off of seeing pictures of people in crazy flexy bendy yoga poses. I figured, “well, that must be yoga. That’s definitely not my cup of tea.” And here I am, a yoga instructor (who does not teach flexy bendy poses). Apparently my perception changed!
You don’t know what you don’t know
Because our perception is essentially our knowledge, understanding, or impression of something, it can often limit us if we are not willing to look beyond our current thoughts and beliefs. In other words, we’d never grow. We’d never learn. Wow, that would be pretty boring. Needless to say, this is one of the many reasons why we love to travel and explore the world. Yet we don’t have to leave town to experience this. In fact, just by reading this, your perception is changing (maybe just with acknowledging that I love to use the parentheses key)))).
Three Lessons on Perception
1. “It’s not what you look at that matters. It’s what you see.” Your perception is always changing. Yet the empowering piece is that you are the one deciding what your impression and beliefs are because you’re the one experiencing these experiences first hand.
2. What you see and perceive is different than others. Assuming that yours is the only one (or the best / right) limits your ability to connect and communicate with others, as well as learn new things.
3. How you approach a situation can make all the difference in the world. Being open to a new experience, as opposed to jumping in with a closed-mind will certainly influence what we take from the experience.
Yoga & Athletes
I have worked with athletes who carry the similar pre-conceived notion about yoga as I did. Now mind you, I am not teaching straight-up-yoga. If you haven’t taken a session from me, there’s a lot of alignment, pilates, natural movement practices, and science-based methods intertwined. But these athletes heard the word yoga, so now they’ve got this word (with a strong stereotype) stuck in their heads. Fair enough.
Because I understand, first hand, that we may walk into a room with a preconceived notion, I tell my clients: “I encourage and ask you to be open to trying new things. Whatever expectations or perceptions you had walking into this, leave them at the door. I guarantee what I am teaching is different from what you have done before, and I ask that you approach it with an open mind. Give yourself a chance to get out of your comfort zone, because that is where we can grow, improve, and learn the most about ourselves.”
It’s not up to me to decide what you take from an experience, whether you like it or dislike it. I simply ask that you are open to it. Hmm, just the way I like to live.