Friday, October 10, 2008

Perception is Reality

I was speaking to someone who recently read a study regarding the influence of expectation on the performance of students and teachers in grade school. Three teachers were selected for the study and they were told that in the coming year that they would be receiving students who were gifted. These three teachers were also told that they themselves were the top teachers in their district and this was why they were being selected to teach these students.

During the year, the students marks were the best in the district and, in some cases, some students’ IQs increased by a significant amount.

The first catch? The students were selected by ballot with no concern given to previous grades or performance. The second catch? The teachers, unknown to themselves, had also been selected by ballot--they were regular teachers. Not a superstar in the lot.

So, it would seem that intelligence and performance can be linked very strongly to an individual’s perceptions. If a student is treated as if he or she is an gifted student, then they may become a gifted student. If a teacher is told that he or she is one of the best teachers, then the teacher may behave like the best of teachers.

Human beings will live up or down to expectations. We’ve all heard this but it’s never been so clearly illustrated to me as with the above case. Of course, the above will not work with all people but expectations can play a major part in determining the outcome of any endeavor.

If you think you will be successful, then you will be successful. You’ll do things that successful people do. If you think you will be a failure, then you will be a failure. You’ll do things that unsuccessful people do because you don’t expect to be successful. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Your reality is shaped directly by your perception of reality. If you expect the worst, you will probably receive the worst. If you expect the best, you will probably receive the best. This isn’t to say that you can dance through life like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and everything will be peachy and the world will be a wonderful place. You must shape your perceptions. If your perceptions are not serving you well, then you need a new set of perceptions, which takes time, patience and effort. And can be incredibly painful.

So your feeling and perceptions are your responsibility. Your responsibility to nurture or change, your responsibility to cling to or abandon those feelings and perceptions that harm you.

We all struggle with feelings and perceptions of inadequacy. We all fear looking silly or unattractive or a host of other undesirable things. We are all special in some way. We need to take a good gentle, objective look at ourselves and see ourselves for what we are.

Fragilely human.

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