Perception is Reality

Perception is Reality | - image via Unsplash

“Everything you see or hear or experience in any way at all is specific to you. You create a universe by perceiving it, so everything in the universe you perceive is specific to you.”
(Douglas Adams)

Has anyone ever told you that perception is reality? Past bosses have used this phrase as a reminder that the way others perceive me is just as important as what might be true.

But what if our perceptions, or the way we see, determine what is true for us? That is exactly what social psychologist Emily Balcetis proposed in her TED Talk about vision. Her talk applies to many areas of life, but she focuses on explaining why some people find exercise harder than others – and it has everything to do with perception.

Physical fitness is one of the seven foundations of health, but many people struggle with establishing a practice of lifelong exercise. Balcetis’ research shows two important practices for getting over the hurdle. If you can, I highly recommend taking the next 14 minutes to watch her TED Talk:

The first practice is goal setting.

Balcetis states, “people who had committed to a manageable goal that they could accomplish in the near future and who believed that they were capable of meeting that goal actually saw the exercise as easier.”

Perception is reality: committing to a goal and believing you can achieve it will make the pursuit seem easier.

Without commitment or belief, it is hard to achieve any goal. I just love how this shows that effective goals alter perception with a positive outcome. If this is true for fitness, can it apply to other areas of life?

The second practice is visual focus.

In her study, Balcetis asked a group of participants to “keep your eye on the prize” – to focus their vision on the finish line and let anything else they saw go out of focus. She found that people who focused on the finish line reported the exercise required 17% less exertion and they moved 23% faster than the control group.

Perception is reality: applying 100% focus to a goal will make the pursuit seem easier and help you succeed.

The word focus can be a point of concentration – literally with our vision or metaphorically with our attention. If focusing our vision on the finish line impacts fitness this way, then what happens when we focus our energy on one single point?

While I am taking liberties with science vs. possibility, Balcetis makes some very interesting points. There are ways that we can use the old adage – perception is reality – to shape, form, and influence our lives for the better.

Image via Unsplash



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