If you've boarded an airplane recently, you may have noticed a set of advertisements in the jet bridge. HSBC shows the same picture three times with a different word on each image. How would you have interpreted the picture below? If you had to describe it in one word, would you have chosen "style," "soldier," "survivor," or something else?


We all see the world through our own eyes. The world is what it is, and then we add our interpretation of it in our own minds. Our individual perceptions are why two people can view the same situation completely differently, and why one person can love something while another person doesn't care for it at all. Perception is based on many things, including how we remember the past, how we feel at any given moment, and even whether we've had our morning coffee.

Developing an awareness of how we interpret the world is vital. Without examination of our thoughts, we can buy into beliefs that do us no good, adopt other people's perceptions, and miss opportunities to learn and grow. Every moment that we live unconsciously is a wasted moment. Growth will naturally happen, but wouldn't it be wonderful to put some time and energy into examination so that we can speed up the process? The more awareness we develop, the closer we can get to achieving stillness of mind and finding lasting, authentic happiness. That is the time when the world simply is, without our interpretations draped over it.

A simple meditation exercise I have found very useful is to go for a walk and try to really see something. Breathe deeply, quiet your mind, and just look at an object such as a flower or a building. Try to forget all that you have been told about this object and discover it again, as if for the first time. Be conscious of what you are looking at and what your mind is thinking about it. Now try to go beyond those thoughts and just be with the object itself. This exercise can develop mindfulness of what is around us, and often can be used to quiet the flurry of thoughts in our heads.

Take a look at the ad again. Now what do you see: "style," "soldier," "survivor," or something else? There is no right answer, just the unconscious answer and the conscious answer. It could be one and the same, but often times it isn't, and discovering the conscious answer can tell us worlds about ourselves.

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About the Author

Michelle Gielan
Michelle Gielan is a journalist and wellness expert, receiving a Master of Applied Positive Psychology from UPenn. She is a former national CBS News anchor.

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