I've gotten into the habit of asking myself one question lately. When I'm reading a book or article, listening to a podcast or the radio, watching television especially with the news and politics of late, and even more so when I'm in my own head processing my thoughts.
Is this the truth?
Is what I believe true?
I've become very aware over the past several years that there is a distinct difference between the truths of people from one individual to another. So much so, that a universal truth doesn't really seem possible anymore. Everyone has beliefs. Even those that are based on what we consider to be cold hard facts. But the truth is only what you believe, and that means that it is not true for anyone except for you. And, more importantly, it means that the truth can change at any time of your choosing.
This all stems from The Work, by Byron Katie. She has absolutely revolutionized the thought process in deciphering reality versus falsehood. It's like The Matrix of Emotions. Once Neo realizes that he doesn't need oxygen to breathe and that time doesn't truly exist, he becomes physically unbeatable because he never gets tired and can slow down and anticipate all things. Byron Katie asks a series of 4 questions that allow us to be emotionally free, the first of which is: Is it true?
The simplest of the four parts, at the beginning of your questioning of course you think what you are believing is true. Of course. The next three questions seek to break down this belief to prove that the thing you believe, in fact, is only a belief, not a fact, and therefore can be changed:
Can you absolutely know that it's true?
How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
Who would you be without that thought?
It could be a whole year's worth of posts to work through all of the things these simple questions touch on mindset. But, for now, the most important thing we can do is to know that the things we believe are only beliefs and that we have the power to change them at any time.
For me, the best way to be mindful of how my conscious thoughts become beliefs in the first place is to evaluate a situation based on the Observe / Assume method. What do you see? And what does that cause you to assume?
An easy example is stereotyping. We are all guilty of this. The mind easily makes connections between observations and our past history without us even consciously going through the processes. This is what makes "resting bitch face" so hysterical, in my opinion. It's a real thing, yo! What you observe is a person with a completely annoyed look on their face and what you assume is if you approach them or ask anything of them, you might get your eyes scratched out and screamed at. You are making the assumption that they are, in fact, bitchy. LOL. I can't stop laughing. Anyways... some people just naturally look annoyed. I'm one of them! I try to control it, but seriously when I'm thinking hard (which is most of the time) my face is what it is.
We've all read the stories about mistaken stereotypes and the surprising feats of unexpected heroes. We've all been guilty of passing judgment on someone's behavior after meeting them only one time while not giving them the benefit of the doubt that their struggle is unknown to us. This is when the observe/assume method comes in handy. I've even been known to say it aloud to the person I am pondering over in order to ask for clarification.
I observe that you look flustered. I assume I did something to upset you.
Not at all! I just got an email from my boss and am going to have to work tonight.
I observe that you're checking your watch often. I assume you want to leave.
No, I feel anxious over being late to an appointment, could you help me keep an eye on the time?
It would be so easy to take pretty much any situation personally, and have negative feelings about it. Or, you can question whether what you are experiencing is true. Even if you don't verbalize the question in some way, your internal dialog can shift your mindset to a place where you can recognize that reality and what you assume are completely different things.