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We Do Not See Things As They Are, We See Them As We Are

Sep 24, 2019

“We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

                                                                                       - Anaïs Nin

Our problems and challenges can seem very real.

However, as leaders, we’ve all heard the term “perception is reality”.  The preconceptions and the beliefs we bring to situations can dramatically alter the way we perceive the world. This is particularly true in dealing with problems and challenges.  It is not a new concept in leadership that brining positivity, inquisitiveness and proactiveness to a challenge, will most likely net positive results.  In contrast, we are also aware that bringing negativity, pessimism and fear to the same situation, will most likely create less than optimum outcomes.

When we come right down to it, it is not what is happening to us that is the problem, but how we look at it and the perspective we bring to it.  I know this may seem “pollyana-ish”, particularly when we are in the thick of things.  But I believe we all can recall situations in our lives that at first glance seemed tragic and insurmountable and later turned out nowhere close to as bad as we thought.  Oftentimes, these experiences became those for which we were most proud of overcoming and that grew our confidence and learning.  As a result, we learned to become grateful for these challenges occurring. 

It was our perceptions and the way we showed up to these situations that usually made the difference.  As my teachers, Drs. Ron and Mary Hulnick are known to say, “How you deal with the problem is the problem.”  It is all based on our perceptions and the actions we choose to take based on those perceptions.  Or, as the quote above from Anais Nin so eloquently states,


“We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.”


I am reminded of a story about two twin brothers who researchers had studied since the time they were infants.  Both boys grew up with a father with major personal struggles.  Their dad was drug and alcohol addicted, could not hold down a job, had abandoned them at a young age and had even served time in prison.

The researchers went to question the brothers, now in their early 30's. The first brother had unfortunately followed in his father's footsteps.  He was a heavy user of drugs and alcohol, could not hold down a job, was estranged from his ex-wife and kids and had been incarcerated.  When researchers asked him why his life had taken the path it had, he responded,

"Well, with a father like mine, how could I be any different?"

They then went to the second brother.  His life had taken a very different path.  He had graduated college, been married for years to a great woman with whom he had two amazing kids and had a career that he loved in which he was making an impact.  When the researchers asked how he had achieved all he had in his life, he responded, 

"Well, with father like mine, how could I be any different?"


Same situation, same upbringing, two very different perspectives; two very different lives.


“We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.”


The overcoming of almost any challenge is dramatically impacted by the perspective we bring to the situation and as a result, the questions we ask ourselves.  Albert Einstein once stated, “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I can solve the problem in less than 5 minutes.”

Here are five questions great leaders ask themselves and their organizations when dealing with challenges so they may bring their most empowered perspectives to the situation and maximize their results.

  1. Who do I need to BE to best handle this situation? – As stated previously, dealing with any challenging situation begins with our perspective and our way of BEing we bring to the situation. Does this situation call for you to be courageous, patient, loving, confident, trusting, peaceful, enthusiastic, strong, vulnerable, proactive or decisive?  Only we control our state of being.  Leaders understand that the way of being they choose to demonstrate not only impacts their own effectiveness in dealing with adversity, but also has a positive influence on those in their organizations to bring forth their best selves necessary in dealing with the situation.
  2. What REALLYis really happening here? – During challenging times, it can be very easy to get caught up in the “story” of what is occurring.  This includes all of the bad things that can happen if the situation is not resolved, as well as who is at fault for the situation occurring.  By determining what the facts or conditions are, WITHOUT the story, our minds can then focus on solutions and we can tap into our inner well of creativity (high vibrational energy) versus fear and blame (low vibrational energy) to net us the best solutions and results.
  3. What’s the plan, Stan (or Fran)? – As the Einstein quote above encouraged us to take time and ask the right questions, so is it beneficial to put together a concise and decisive plan of action when dealing with challenges. While it might seem like action needs to be taken immediately (and sometimes it does), oftentimes when we feel compelled to act on a moment’s notice, this comes from a sense of fear of “needing to do something” rather than doing what is best to remedy the situation.  Powerful leaders understand the value of concise, courageous and thoughtful planning that put them into creative action versus negative reaction.
  4. What’s the next right move? – While putting together a powerful plan is important, inspired action is necessary to bring those plans to fruition. Sometimes these actions come from the plans we have created and sometimes they come from us needing to deal with new and unexpected challenges and course correct in the moment.  I love what Oprah Winfrey suggests when dealing with challenges, when she encourages us to simply ask ourselves, “What’s the next right move?” and then take action.  Then again ask, “What’s the next right move?” and take action.  And then after that ask, “What the next right move?” and take appropriate action.  It has been my experience that the Universe rewards action by continuing to open doors and provide opportunities when we set ourselves in motion.
  5. How can I use this for my learning, upliftment and growth? – If we come from a perspective that everything that happens to us (and that means EVERTHING) is for our learning, upliftment and growth, then it makes sense for us to pause and ask ourselves what the lessons we are to glean from our challenges? It may be difficult to discern this when we are “in it”, but quality leaders always take time, after the dust has settled, to debrief and explore how they and their team responded to the situation and how this experience can serve them moving forward.  While our fast-paced worlds may cause us to believe that we need to quickly move onto the next challenge before us, taking time to reflect after weathering the storm can be greatest act as leader.  Proactive and constructive reflection allows us to truly learn from the situation to prepare us for future challenges.  It also provides us time to reflect and appreciate the gifts that came as a result of this experience.

As you move forward this week, be aware of the challenges you may be encountering and be mindful of how you are responding.  Ask yourself empowering questions and take inspired action, where appropriate.  Be conscious of who you are being as a you do so.  You never know; your greatest challenges may be your greatest gift.

Are you seeing things as they are, or are you seeing things as you are?  It’s all in your perspective.


Chris Natzke

Black Belt Leadership Speaking & Coaching


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