What You See Is What You Get

By Jimmy Warden

There’s an old saying out there that says, “what you see is what you get”. This is a very interesting quote because there is a lot of literal connotation to it when you consider the role that perception plays in what we see. Everything that we see is information that we gather and compare to the way we anticipate our lives should be. When everything in our conscious perception is playing out the way we expected, life is smooth sailing, and we don’t think much of it. However, there are stormy winds when something interferes and disrupts our current perceived world. That’s often why we often “see” the negative things in our day to day and why we focus so heavily on it.

No matter how great of a day we can have, we have a tendency to dwell on the negative. We think about what didn’t go well, why it didn’t go well, and think about how we can problem solve in order to try to avoid the situation again. If a solution isn’t thought of, the perpetuation on the negative continues. Despite the fact that nine out of ten things could have gone right throughout the day, we let that one item bother us because it got it in the way of our ideal day.

We don’t always give ourselves credit for these “less than ideal” days. We have an expectation that our day should give us a certain level of satisfaction and when the day doesn’t live up to that expectation, that’s what we call a bad day. Why do we do this to ourselves? We try to avoid the potential pain that comes with having a bad day. We are also trying to automatize the good parts of the day in order to be replicated over time in the future without conscious thought. That’s why these items often go unnoticed.

A great question to bring to mind is, “when did I last acknowledge that I had a good day?”. I bring this question to the forefront because I know a lot of people who might not have had one within the past week or even longer. Whether it be due to negative self dwelling or genuine misfortune in one’s life, there are an infinite number of things that can happen to give us evidence that our bad day is real. On the flip side, there are also a lot of things that can give us evidence that our day isn’t as bad as it seems.

This is where perception comes into play. This is where we can reframe what we’re “looking for”. Instead of looking for the negative things that we don’t want to occur, be mindful of those everyday things that often get overlooked. Maybe you didn’t get up right when your alarm clock went off, but you still made it to work one time. That’s ideal. Maybe you didn’t get the five things on your to-do list done at work, but maybe you did the three things that were a priority. That’s still ideal. Maybe the food you made for dinner is a little overcooked, but at least you have a hot meal. That’s definitely ideal. Maybe you still got frustrated over a lot of little things today, but at least you noticed a couple of thoughts and were able to mindfully returned to the present moment.

The examples could last forever and a day, so the important takeaway is to think of how you can reframe your perception of what you see. First, it starts with making the conscious choice to try to see the good in the universe. Next, try to embrace it and even celebrate it if it makes sense to do so. Lastly, just keep practicing. The more you practice seeing what you wish to see in the world, the more likely it is you will end up seeing it in real time. This also opens up the opportunity to understand what to look for. Once the brain knows what to look for, the eyes will quickly seek that out.

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