Real Enough

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”

—Albert Einstein

We are approaching my favorite holiday—Thanksgiving. I’ll most certainly write more relating to it in the coming weeks, but I was thinking about this lately and felt like sharing…

Reality is flexible. It is not fixed.

I can hear several of you asking if I’ve lost my mind. Stay with me.

Einstein realized that the observed behavior of objects was relative to the position of the observer. If a boy on a train dropped a ball, the ball fell straight down to the floor (or so the boy thought), but to a person outside watching the train go by, the ball traveled on an arc that became steeper the longer the ball fell. Same ball, so the physical reality didn’t change, just the perceived or witnessed reality. Perception is reality, and therefore reality is not fixed.

If you have ever been to a professional basketball game and sat courtside in the first few rows, you are watching a different game than if you are up in the seats near the top of the arena. Of course the game is the same, but the location you view it from matters.

“Where” we are located changes how we perceive, or see, the world around us. Much of what we “observe” must be interpreted in some way. Things like how we view the way people treat us, how “friendly” the world is, and how “lucky” we are depend on what mental location we are viewing from. In other words, our mood dictates our reality.

Let me say that again. My mood dictates my reality. Which also means my reality does not dictate my mood. My mood dictates how my brain reads situations. Usually, nothing is different in the external environment; it is only my internal environment that has changed, which causes me to see the world a certain way.

This works as a cycle.

When I am in a good mood, my positive outlook causes me to see a positive reality, which then sends information back to my brain to reinforce my good mood. When I’m in a bad mood, my negative outlook causes me to see a negative reality. Information about that negative reality is sent back to my brain, and my mood worsens.

Breaking this loop is simple (instead of complex), although it is difficult at first.

The solution is the practice of gratitude. Noticing what is good around me can influence my mood and shift my reality. It is a way of interrupting the negative feedback loop. Gratitude is being aware enough to recognize the good that already exists around me and naming it. Clean water, safety, a comfortable shirt, my computer, a working phone, good health, a great song, good smells, lots of coffee, my loved ones, my friends, birds chirping, light—and the list goes on. By practicing gratitude, I hijack my brain’s feedback loop and redirect it into a positive view of reality, which helps create a positive mood.

The more often I do this, the more I am training my mind to see the positives of reality. Having this outlook doesn’t mean that bad things aren’t happening to me or that life isn’t difficult. It just means that when life is tough, I am better able to handle it.

To change my reality, I need to change my seat. When I find myself sitting in the “negative” section, I need to use gratefulness to change my seat and get a “positive” view of the game. Which seat would you rather sit in?

You have a choice.