How You Perceive: 6 Practices to Consciously Shape Your View of the World

Posted on Mar 8, 2024

How to Perceive in a Complex World

“All our knowledge is the offspring of our perceptions.”

– Leonardo da Vinci

In an age where our senses are bombarded with information, discerning the essence of reality becomes an art form. The way we perceive the world—people, events, and even ourselves—is tinted by the lenses we choose to wear. But what if we could take charge of those lenses? What if we could consciously adjust our perceptions to foster understanding, compassion, and innovation?

In the realm of creativity, our perception is not just a passive receiver but an active player in what we create. For creatives, entrepreneurs, and changemakers, the way we perceive our environment, challenges, and even our pool of resources dictates the boundaries and expansiveness of our creative thinking. When we shift our perception, we shift the possibilities of what we can conceive and create.

“We live in a description of reality. Change the story and you change perception; change perception and you change the world.” 

– Jean Houston

Perceptions That Change the World

Steve Jobs’s unique perception profoundly impacted his creative process and entrepreneurial journey. He saw the world differently, challenging the status quo and common assumptions in the tech world. He could see consumer needs before they were apparent, so he solved problems holistically. Products were more than gadgets; they were tools to enhance human experience, transforming not just industries but daily life.

From across the aisle came Sarah Blakely, the founder of Spanx. Blakely entered a field dominated by big players with no credentials or support. With only the consumer’s perspective she brought a strong belief in her vision and the drive to solve a common problem in an unimagined way. Her ability to see beyond the existing market limitations and deeply empathize with her customers transformed not just a product but an industry.

Reclaiming Perception for Complex Times

Most of us, however,  have been conditioned to relinquish our responsibility for our perceptions. We’ve replaced curiosity with the illusion of certainty. School children are trained to pass standardized tests rather than being guided to reason and think for themselves. And we who are guiding them increasingly look to others – newscasters, influencers and religious leaders – to make sense of  ever-more complex lives.

To reclaim our ability to perceive, we have to reclaim our ability to think. That is, we must question, explore and  deal with the rocky discomfort of ignorance along the way. To create, we have to reclaim our belief in what we see when no one else can.

"Reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends upon what we look for. What we look for depends upon what we think." 

– Gary Zukav

Refining Your Ability to Perceive

As we navigate the complexities of a rapidly evolving society, it's crucial to remember that our perceptions shape our reality. The challenge, then, is not just to perceive but to do so with intention and awareness, especially in the face of the unfamiliar, the disagreeable, and the assumed.

Here are six transformative practices to refine your perceptual skills, enabling you to engage with the world more deeply and authentically:

  1. Cultivate Mindful Awareness: Begin by observing your thoughts and feelings without judgment. When encountering new situations or conflicting viewpoints, take a step back. Mindfulness encourages you to experience the present moment fully, reducing knee-jerk reactions and allowing a more nuanced understanding to emerge.
  2. Challenge Your Assumptions: We all carry a backpack of assumptions and biases that color our perceptions. Consciously challenge these by asking yourself, "Why do I think this way?" or "What if the opposite were true?" This practice opens up new perspectives and diminishes the grip of unfounded beliefs.
  3. Seek Diverse Perspectives: Actively engage with viewpoints different from your own. This doesn't mean you have to agree with them, but understanding different angles enriches your perception, fostering empathy and reducing misunderstandings.
  4. Practice Deep Listening: When conversing with others, especially those with opposing views, listen to understand, not to respond. Deep listening involves fully concentrating on the speaker, acknowledging their perspective, and reflecting back what you've heard. This practice builds bridges of comprehension and connection.
  5. Engage in Reflective Journaling: Write about your experiences and perceptions, particularly those that challenge or confuse you. Journaling provides a space to process your thoughts and feelings, uncovering underlying biases and illuminating new insights.
  6. Adopt a Learner's Mindset:  Approach the world with curiosity instead of certainty. A learner's mindset encourages you to ask questions, seek out new experiences, and remain open to the possibility that you might be wrong. This attitude transforms every experience into an opportunity for growth and understanding.

By adopting these practices of intentional perception, we unlock new dimensions of creativity. When we challenge our assumptions and embrace diverse perspectives, we not only enrich our understanding but also our creative potential. It's in the intersection of differing viewpoints that groundbreaking ideas are born. A mindset that's open to all angles — where every idea is valued and explored — is where creativity thrives, where innovative solutions are not just imagined but brought to fruition.

As author of The Wheel of Creativity and founder of the Big Vision Project Incubator, I am committed to communities where perception is conscious, products are transformational and members are supported to think and live authentically.

If you'd like to learn more about how you can participate in this community, feel free to reach out to me.

Or join us in The Virtual Yurt, a monthly creative circle where we explore relevant topics in interdisciplinary ways. This month's yurt will take place on Sunday, March 24th, and we'll be exploring The Art of Perceiving.

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  1. An excellent article, Katherine. I think those 6 practices could form the basis for a group program to explore and practice actively.

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