Reality Is Constructed By Our Brain

by Ron Potter

Neuroscientist Patrick Cavanagh says that “It’s really important to understand we’re not seeing reality, we’re seeing a story being created for us.”

Brain Stories

What actually creates these stories?  It’s our backgrounds, beliefs, assumptions that have been formed throughout our lifetime.  Dr. Cavanagh says that “Our brains bend our perception of reality to meet our desires or expectations.  They fill the gaps using our past experiences.”

Our brains see what we expect them to see.  I’ve talked before about how our backgrounds and experiences form our belief systems so that we see what we want or expect to see.  Remember the professor in Florida who had his class write down everything they could remember about the shuttle explosion that had occurred the day before? He collected all of their handwritten reports and then tracked down as many of them as he could several years later.  Not one of them agreed with what they had written because their memory was different.

One student actually read his 14 written pages very carefully and then totally rejected it.  He said the report was not correct then proceeded to tell the professor what “really” happened that day.  His mind had created its own reality in spite of what he had written down at the moment.

Curious About Our Brain Stories

If we know that our brain tends to make up stories so that we see and hear what we desire, shouldn’t we be curious enough to explore what the reality is compared to our brain story?

It’s when we don’t have that curiosity about our brain story and simply accept our perception as the reality that creates problems as leaders and team members.

Intellectual Humility

In a Vox article, Brian Resnick said “Intellectual humility: the importance of knowing you might be wrong.”

This is a great statement: knowing that you might be wrong.

The first part of that statement is “knowing”.  We all assume that our view of the world and circumstances is “correct”.  However, if we mature in our thinking we begin to understand that our view or opinion is firmly rooted in the experiences and history that we have lived.  Having respect for others indicates that we’re beginning to learn that their view or opinion is also firmly rooted in their experiences and history.  And just like snowflakes, no two human beings have exactly the same experiences.

The second part of the statement is knowing that we might be wrong.  I don’t believe that one set of experiences is right and one is wrong.  I simply believe they are each unique.  Building great teams starts with this premise.  With full respect, we start sharing the different opinions and beliefs that we each hold.  Once we’ve shared and understood, it’s then possible for the team to develop a unique response to the situation that belongs to the team.  Not an individual.

Team Unity

It’s when a team reaches this unity that they really begin to become a team.  They made the decision together.  They each had a different view coming into the discussion.  But they come out with a decision that the entire team supports.  Even when others remind us that we had a very different opinion going into the team discussion we can honestly say, “that’s true, I did have a different opinion but as I heard each of the different opinions and listened with respect, we were able to make a team decision that I completely support.”

Team decisions that are made after each person has been listened to, understood, and respected for their opinions are the strongest types of decisions.  Team members all support the decision and people around the team can easily see the commitment to the decision and the trust and respect they have for each other.  This kind of team can lead a company to new heights.

Try it.  It really works!

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