Your Box isn’t My Box
You may be familiar with the line from the movie Forrest Gump, “life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.” But what about “reality is like a Zoom meeting”?
A teacher of mine surprised me one day when he said, “one of the biggest challenges facing humans is that we believe reality is objective, when in fact it’s 100% subjective.” I wasn’t quick to absorb this idea, but now I get it. We each have our own personal version of reality that’s not the objective truth. Instead, it’s filtered through our experience, which makes it our subjective reality.
It’s human nature to assume others share our reality. But here’s the thing: we each process any given moment through our unique lifetime of experiences and conditioning. Since nobody on the planet has had your exact life, it stands to reason that nobody sees or feels or understands the same situation exactly like you do.
The point isn’t that we have different perspectives because we live different lives, but that our perspectives become our reality.
Take a group Zoom call, for instance. As a metaphor, it can give us some insight. We are all sitting in the same meeting, hearing the same discussion. Yet there we all are, in our own little “boxes” on the screen. Think of each box as representing each of our unique realities. We’re in different locations. We have different distractions. We’re dealing with different challenges. We have different impressions of the same speakers and dialogue. Sure, we’re having a crossover moment, but each of us has a different experience of the reality of this meeting.
The same logic applies when we’re all gathered around a conference room table (remember those?). We’re in the same place, but each of us has our own life filters. Jane has a parent with serious health challenges. Ahmad has a teenager who is having a tough time with school. Trevor is new to the organization and is keen to make a good impression. Sasha doesn’t speak up to share a crucial insight because of her negative conditioning around authority figures. Etc.
The next time you are on a group Zoom call, take a moment to consider that everyone is in their own world, different from yours, as signified by all the individual boxes. This thought experiment may make it easier for you to recognize that each person on the call is having a unique version of the shared experience…and defining their reality accordingly. I wonder how it might shift your thinking or approach?
In my next blog, I’ll share some techniques for helping you avoid the trap of assuming others see reality as you do.