To create a better reality, first tell as story about it so real and compelling that all uncertainty and fear is replaced by excitement and a desire for something better.
Humans are funny sometimes. Even when we want something better than what we have, we are reluctant to move towards it until we are assured it is safe. Most people will always prefer the known reality they have over the unknown they might have, even if could be better.
Uncertainty is a huge demotivator.
When I was starting to change my life for the better, the biggest obstacle to progress was the inability to see the reality I wanted to become.
- No matter how much I pushed myself to meet people, I could not see myself as socially confident, and so I never became comfortable with it.
- No matter how many pushups I did, I never saw myself as strong, and so they were always hard and my progress was painfully slow.
- No matter how much I wrote, I never saw myself as a writer, and so I had only marginal success.
Eventually, I realized the problem wasn’t my lack of practice. It was the fact that I was clinging to the wrong picture of who I was.
So, instead of focusing on the logistics, I started to focus on the image in my head, the vision I had of what and who I was. I started to imagine myself doing all the great things I was trying to do.
- I imagined every detail of the me who was socially confident and engaging.
- I painted a detailed image of a strong, muscular, fast, athletic me, doing all the cool things I wanted to do.
- I called myself a writer, over and over, and talked as if that was how I made my living.
And when my mind became comfortable with the image, my reality started to conform to it.
Perception Creates Reality
Big changes are hard, not because they involve a lot of adjustment, but because they do not conform to the way we currently see reality (if they did, they wouldn’t be changes). We base a lot of assumptions on what we accept as true. Everything from our sense of possibility to our opinions on right and wrong and self-worth are built on how we see the world.
So, when we try to change something, we often forget that we’re trying to change a lot more than just the outward signs of that change. We are messing with our perception of reality, and anyone who’s studied psychology knows that the result of pushing reality too far from our beliefs is cognitive dissonance, which is a fancy way of saying it get pretty freaky.
We might make some progress, but if our perception never changes, we eventually return to how things were before.
We have tried to change only our externals, but not the mindset that makes it possible.
In my experience, the biggest obstacle in affecting positive change is that people don’t believe it is possible, with the same strength of conviction that they believe an apple falls to the ground when they drop it. This belief is expressed in many ways. Some will just say, “That’s impossible.” However, many will act threatened or insecure. Failing to see in full color the alternative reality, they react in the way we always respond to unfamiliar things: with fear. And anyone who’s seen Star Wars knows that fear leads to anger, which leads to hate, which leads to suffering, the path to the dark side.
Which ultimately means no positive change.
However, there is another way.
Paint the Picture You Want to Live
You could purposefully try to cultivate a very detailed vision of the reality you want to create. Make it familiar, flesh it out. Get it to be so compelling and so real that you are no longer afraid of it because it has become so familiar. Roll it over in your head all the time.
This applies to social change as well.
Why is it so hard to create a world free of corporate corruption, for example? My theory is because people don’t understand what that would look like, and even if it’s theoretically a good thing, people are afraid of things they don’t understand.
Show people what a world without corporate corruption looks like. Make the vision as real and detailed as possible. When people can’t help but imagine how great it is, and aren’t afraid of the unknown, then it won’t take much to start change. That’s what great marketing companies do, after all; they show us a (better) reality, make it familiar and compelling, and then watch us do the legwork of seeking out and buying their product.
Obviously, selling a better vision of the World and Society requires a very elaborate, community-driven vision board. The smaller the change you want to drive, the smaller the vision you need to create.
But, I think that is why story has so much power to motivate people. A good book or some well-crafted words paint a picture of a world that people can understand on an emotional level. That is why in trying to inspire people to change themselves and their world for the better, I rely on story. Bring people’s minds to a better place, and the body, then the community, will follow.
To learn more about one part of my story–the part about getting stronger–and hopefully be inspired, check out my recently published book, The Warrior Spirit Principles of Holistic Health, which you can download for free.
(Photo credit: ministryofstories on Flickr)