What Really Determines How We Live Our Lives?

This post is from a friend and men­tor Morty Lefkoe, at http://mortylefkoe.com

It goes very well with my pre­vi­ous post and some oth­ers. And, very use­ful in highly emo­tion­ally charged sit­u­a­tions .… if you decide that you want to use it, that is. Unfor­tu­nately we often just won’t. How stub­born can we get, to our own detri­ment of course? No won­der our rela­tion­ships go down the tube, although we do have tools to save it.

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For years I’ve thought that our lives—what we do, think, feel, and perceive—were the direct result of our beliefs and our con­di­tion­ing.  When I looked at the lives and beliefs of over 13,000 clients, I noticed a very close correlation.

In the past few weeks I’ve had rea­son to rethink that con­clu­sion.  I’ve iden­ti­fied a  cou­ple of steps between beliefs and how we live our lives, so I no longer think there is a direct connection.

In order to explain what the actual con­nec­tion is, let me briefly remind you of my three posts last year on “occur­ring.” (See here) Most peo­ple are not aware that the way real­ity shows up or occurs for them is not the same as what’s actu­ally “out there” in the world.

For exam­ple, if some­thing you’re about to do occurs to you as dif­fi­cult, for you it really is dif­fi­cult.  For you, the dif­fi­culty is a fact. Actu­ally, the project might require skills that you don’t have or per­haps you aren’t con­fi­dent about your abil­ity to do it suc­cess­fully. But the project itself isn’t dif­fi­cult.  Dif­fi­cult is in our minds.  Only the require­ments of the project are in the world.

So there is a pro­found dif­fer­ence between real­ity and how real­ity shows up for us, and most peo­ple usu­ally never make that distinction.

Back to my new real­iza­tion.  It now seems to me that what deter­mines our thoughts, feel­ings, behav­ior, etc. at any given moment is the way peo­ple and events (and even our inter­nal thoughts) occur to us, moment by moment.  And, for us, real­ity is this occurring—not how real­ity really is.

Are beliefs and con­di­tion­ing involved at all?  Yes, they are.  The con­nec­tion between our beliefs and con­di­tion­ing and how things show up or occur for us is   the mean­ing we are giv­ing real­ity moment by moment.

Here’s how I think it works: We have beliefs and con­di­tion­ings from ear­lier in life.  When we inter­act with any sit­u­a­tion, our exist­ing beliefs and con­di­tion­ings are the pri­mary deter­mi­nant of the mean­ing we give the sit­u­a­tion.  That mean­ing in turn deter­mines how it occurs for us.  And that occur­ring then deter­mines how we react to the situation.

Here’s an illus­tra­tion to make this real.  Imag­ine you have sev­eral beliefs, includ­ing What makes me good enough or impor­tant is hav­ing peo­ple think well of me. The sit­u­a­tion you encounter is: You’re with a group of friends, all of whom have the same opin­ion about some­thing.  You dis­agree.  That’s real­ity.  Given the beliefs you have, the mean­ing you might give this real­ity is: “It’s dan­ger­ous to dis­agree with my friends because that might result in them not lik­ing me or think­ing less of me.”  Given that mean­ing, the sit­u­a­tion prob­a­bly will occur for you as uncom­fort­able and you will feel resis­tance to speak up about your dis­agree­ment.   And given this way the sit­u­a­tion showed up for you, you prob­a­bly would not say anything.

Can you see that your beliefs would lead you to give real­ity the mean­ing you did?  … And can you see that given that mean­ing, the sit­u­a­tion would occur to you as it did?  … And finally, can you see that your behav­ior prob­a­bly would be con­sis­tent with how the sit­u­a­tion occurred to you? …

When I men­tioned this new way of look­ing at the rela­tion­ship between our beliefs and the way we live our lives, one friend said to me last week: Why are you com­pli­cat­ing the sit­u­a­tion?  If beliefs and con­di­tion­ing cause the mean­ing, which causes the occur­ring, which deter­mines how we life our lives, so what if there are a cou­ple of ele­ments between the beliefs and how we live our lives?

Here’s why this dis­tinc­tion can be very impor­tant.  If our lives are the direct result of our beliefs and con­di­tion­ing, then we could not change our lives until we found and elim­i­nated them.  But if our lives are the result of the mean­ing we give any given sit­u­a­tion, then it might be pos­si­ble to change that mean­ing, thereby chang­ing how we will act and feel in any given sit­u­a­tion, with­out elim­i­nat­ing the beliefs.

I think that it is pos­si­ble to do that and I’m in the process of con­duct­ing an exper­i­ment with 20 peo­ple over a ten-week period to see what is required to change the mean­ing we auto­mat­i­cally give to sit­u­a­tions.  So far it looks like it can be done.  I per­son­ally have done it many times, even though it can be dif­fi­cult to do it consistently.

Now in the long run you still would want to get rid of the rel­e­vant neg­a­tive beliefs and con­di­tion­ing because, if you don’t, the next time a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion comes up, you’ll prob­a­bly form the same mean­ing, which you will then have to change.  On the other hand, if you elim­i­nate the neg­a­tive beliefs, you’ll form a dif­fer­ent, more pos­i­tive mean­ing the next time, and you won’t have to change it.

At this point you prob­a­bly are ask­ing: So how do you change the mean­ing we auto­mat­i­cally and uncon­sciously give events every minute?  The same way we elim­i­nate the mean­ing we gave the events that led to beliefs as a child.  Give the events two or three dif­fer­ent mean­ings so that you can make real that the mean­ing you gave the sit­u­a­tion is not “the truth,” and then real­ize you never saw the mean­ing in real­ity.  You only can see real­ity; mean­ing is always in our mind.

Also, it seems that some peo­ple are able to ignore or tran­scend how things show up for them. I’ve observed a few peo­ple who seem to be suc­cess­ful finan­cially, in their careers, and in other aspects of their lives (such as deal­ing with eating/weight issues)—who still have a bunch of neg­a­tive self-esteem beliefs.  That wouldn’t make sense if our lives were con­sis­tent with our beliefs.  But given what now appears to be true, as I’ve described above, these peo­ple either are chang­ing the mean­ing of sit­u­a­tions con­stantly or are tran­scend­ing the way things show up for them.

Peo­ple who do the lat­ter seem to be able to say to them­selves: “Yes, the world is occur­ring as dif­fi­cult, or me as inad­e­quate, etc., but so what?  I don’t care about real­ity (how the world occurs to me), I’m going for it anyway.”

In look­ing at my own life I can see that I’ve done that from time to time.  I have  pur­poses or goals that I am so com­mit­ted to that I can totally ignore how things occur for me.  One exam­ple is I have decided to dras­ti­cally cut down my con­sump­tion of sugar and have just a square or two of choco­late after din­ner and none dur­ing the day.  Most days after lunch I feel a desire for choco­late.  I notice that feel­ing and ignore it, say­ing silently to myself: “I don’t care if I feel like eat­ing choco­late, I’m not going to do it.”  There is no strug­gle or effect and I don’t think about eat­ing choco­late any more after I have that thought.  It’s as if my com­mit­ment is so much greater than the way my desire for choco­late shows up for me after lunch that the desire for choco­late feels irrelevant.

I’ll have more to say about chang­ing the mean­ing you have given a sit­u­a­tion and tran­scend­ing how the world occurs to us a few weeks after the Lefkoe Free­dom Exper­i­ment is com­plete and I have the results from 20 exper­i­menters.  In the mean­time, check it out your­self.  See if you can notice that you gen­er­ally are not aware of the dif­fer­ence between real­ity and how real­ity occurs or shows up for you.  And then see if you can change that occur­ring by chang­ing the mean­ing you had just given the sit­u­a­tion in front of you.”

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Well done Morty! Great arti­cle and excel­lent insight.

Radomir

http://www.RelationshipSaver.org/

http://www.GamelessRelationship.com/

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Comments (4)

Charles Hayford

April 25th, 2011 at 1:52 AM    


Out­stand­ing post how­ever , I was won­der­ing if you could write a litte more on this sub­ject? I’d be very thank­ful if you could elab­o­rate a lit­tle bit more. Kudos!

Lili Bonano

April 26th, 2011 at 4:12 AM    


Man you legend.

Sal Schartz

April 27th, 2011 at 5:46 AM    


This is the suit­able blog for any­body who desires to find out about this topic. You real­ize a lot its vir­tu­ally oner­ous to argue with you (not that I actu­ally would need…HaHa). You pos­i­tively put a brand new spin on a topic thats been writ­ten about for years. Nice stuff, sim­ply nice!

Steve Ross

October 31st, 2011 at 12:11 AM    


What a breath­tak­ing con­cept. Per­haps Morty may be allud­ing to the fol­low­ing:
Instead of auto­mat­i­cally react­ing to many events — you can actu­ally change the course of your future. Like when an event hap­pens which nor­mally invokes your neg­a­tive reac­tion, you can change your view­point and con­se­quent reac­tion. Don’t quite like your new reac­tion? Well here is the good part – the next time a sim­i­lar event occurs – you could fur­ther cus­tomise your reac­tion to a more pos­i­tive spin on the out­come! Its’ like being able to rewrite his­tory to fur­ther cus­tomise your future again and again – for the same or sim­i­lar event. The event’s mean­ing to you is chang­ing or mor­ph­ing into what­ever you want. Ulti­mately your inter­ac­tion with your part­ner or your work col­leagues changes as you become more accept­ing of their view­points as being as valid of yours. And the most amaz­ing thing occurs if you find your­self adopt­ing their per­haps pre­vi­ously unten­able view­point, as your own!

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