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Perception is Projection

Perception is Projection

Why is it that two people watching the same accident have two totally different accounts of what just occurred?  They both saw the same accident–yet, they processed two very different versions.


According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, we take in 2 million pieces of information/second, yet we can only process 134 bits/second.  How then do we determine which 134 bits of information to focus on? 


We choose those 134 bits of information based on our:

  • values
  • beliefs
  • attitudes
  • past experiences
  • memories
  • and how we process information


To illustrate this point, let’s have some fun.

    • Look around the room you are currently in and notice all the items in the room that are colored white (for some of you this might be easy, for others you may have to really look carefully for “white” items).
  • Now, close your eyes and try to remember all the items in the room that were the color “black”.
  • Notice how challenging this task is, given that I directed you to look for the colour “white”. 
  • Now, open your eyes and look around the room and notice just how many “black” colored items you missed when asked to recall them.
  • There are just as many “black” items now that you are noticing them as there was when you were only searching “white” items.  The only thing that changed was the focus you were giving to the two different colours.

This is just one example of how differently two people might see their respective worlds.


How do you see the world?

  • Are you a glass half full person, or are you a glass half empty person?
  • What is the first thing you see, hear, or feel in any situation?
  • Are you looking for and noticing the positive side of things?
  • Or do you gravitate towards the negatives, the risks, and what is wrong with the situation?

Both scenarios are present – the positive and the negative – you, the observer, get to choose how to interpret the situation.


Oh sure, you have your reasons for seeing things a certain way.  We all have baggage we carry around with us that affects how we view the world.  To quote Dr. Phil, “how is that working for you?”  If it’s working, and you are truly happy in every area of your life, great!  However, if there is any area of your life that isn’t working, look at how you might change your perception of the situation so that you are experiencing the most positive 134 bits out of the 2 million bits of information available.


Here are 5 steps to help you more positively focus your attention:

  1. Ask yourself… What perspective are you currently holding as you evaluate a particular situation?
  2. Ask yourself… What other perspectives are possible that you may not have considered to this point?
  3. Ask yourself… Which perspective would offer you the best and highest positive potential for an optimal outcome?
  4. Holding the best and highest positive potential perspective… What are some actions you could take?
  5. Go ahead and take positive action!


Your world is a mirror that reflects back to you what you are seeing, hearing, feeling and sensing.  Your perception truly is a projection of what is going on in your inner world.  Here’s the good news–you get to choose how you interpret any situation.  So choose wisely.


Linda CattelanLinda Cattelan, Career & Life Coach and the President of Results Catalyst Inc. – a professional coaching and training company focused on individuals and teams to maximize human potential and to achieve personal and professional success.  Linda shares over 25 years of corporate experience, much of it at the senior executive level.  A superior track record coaching and mentoring senior managers, executives and entrepreneurs to consistently achieve outstanding results Linda is brilliant at using various self discovery techniques to facilitate getting at core issues instrumental for personal and professional breakthrough.

Holding a Masters Degree in Business Administration, Linda is a Certified Trainer and Master Practitioner in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach.  Linda is a regular guest of radio and television and a Contributing Author of the inspirational and informative networking book, The Power of Women United.

If you are interested in closing the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in any area of your life or you are interested in learning more about Linda Cattelan or Results Catalyst Inc. then simply click here:


Other Books by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi:


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