The power of our lenses
Several years ago, before we were married, my wife and I participated in a program called The Landmark Forum, which consisted of three intense days of personal growth. Although I wasn’t thrilled about going, I knew that it was time to address some of my inner struggles, such as a lack of self-confidence that had plagued me for most of my life. After experiencing the peaks and valleys of this 3-day emotional roller coaster ride, I walked away with an absolute clarity that I was ultimately responsible for my reality. Furthermore, I realized that my inner struggles were not the result of circumstances, but rather the way I chose to interpret those circumstances. From that moment forward, I made a commitment to see life through a new lens; a lens of hope and optimism.
You see, each of us have two basic types of lenses, powerless and empowering. Simply put, our empowering lenses consist of thoughts and beliefs that serve us well, whereas our powerless lenses consist of thoughts and beliefs that are limiting in nature. For example, if you chose an empowering lens with regard to your career, such as – I am capable of great things – it’s likely that success will follow because you will constantly be looking for opportunity, or what is possible. Conversely, if you chose a powerless lens, such as – This is a dead end job – it’s likely that you will experience constant frustration and anger because you are only looking for limitations, or what isn’t possible.
The great news is that through a process of consistent awareness with regard to our thoughts, each of us possess an ability to change our powerless lenses at any given time. The difficulty lies in the fact that we often accept them as the truth because we’ve spent years wearing the same lens. Furthermore, we have subconsciously searched for evidence to support our current lenses. In my case, I spent my entire adolescence wearing the powerless lens of – I’m not good enough – and had plenty of evidence to prove it. I’ve often had students tell me that they’ve tried desperately to change their negative thinking, but it just wasn’t working. When I ask them how long they’ve tried, the answer is usually in the range of two or three days. Guess what? Each of us have spent years shaping our lenses through consistent, rigid thinking. It’s not going to change over night. This is the essence of mental discipline.
Let’s look at an example of this process.
Julie has a powerless lens that has plagued her since elementary school. When she was in the fifth grade, a group of girls (who she thought were her friends) formed an exclusive recess club and Julie did not receive an invitation. Consequently, she spent most of her time at recess by herself, often collecting evidence to support her powerless lens, which was – People don’t like me. After a while, this way of thinking acted on autopilot and each time she met someone new, she kept her distance because she was convinced that people didn’t like her. While Julie maintained friendships throughout her years of schooling, she never allowed herself to get too close to anyone. All of this was an effort to support a lens that was formed in elementary school.
Now, imagine that Julie had an opportunity to design a personal experiment that was meant to challenge this lens. Tired of feeling this limitation and desperately wanting to change the way she sees herself, she chose a new, empowering lens that would replace the existing one. Her new belief became – I attract positive, caring people into my life. Now, instead of searching for evidence to support her old powerless lens, she began collecting evidence for this new empowering lens. It was absolutely incredible what began to happen in her life. Gradually she would notice new and existing friends demonstrating genuine support and care for her. She felt a sense of security that she hadn’t felt in a long time. As a result, she was able to be herself and not worry about whether someone was going to exclude her or not.
What really happened in this process? Some of you may be saying that is the stuff of fairy tales and life doesn’t work this way. Others might want the answer to my question so that you can begin implementing this strategy in your own lives. It’s quite possible that nothing outside of Julie changed much at all. In fact, those same friends that she noticed being supportive and caring had probably been demonstrating this all along. The key was Julie’s willingness to see things that she wasn’t willing to see before. She had spent so much time searching for evidence to support her powerless lens that she failed to recognize opposing evidence.
When you change your lens, you change your life.
If you, or someone you know, has a child between the ages of 8-15 years old, I’ll be offering three summer workshops in Arizona, which are designed to help students understand the power of their own lenses. I’d be grateful if you would share the following link with family and friends who might be interested in this opportunity (click here).