Now bear with me of this one, it’s a bit deep. And you might not like it start with.
What do I actually mean?
Life is the story that you give it.
Each and every person and each every thing that comes into your life is the story that you give it. That’s why different people have different opinions about people, and about things.
For me, Dubai represents freedom, a carefree lifestyle, outdoor opportunities and interesting people. For someone else, it is an over the top, gold coated Vegas with camels.
Neither of us is right or wrong. Our past experiences and current perceptions have simply created our story of what Dubai “is”.
What do I mean by “story”?
Every experience you have is shaped by the story you give it. Generally, each experience triggers a set of thoughts, beliefs and emotions in you, which you react to and then relate to the experience.
For example, my best friend and I meet a friend of a friend, “Natasha” at a party. Neither of us have ever met her before. We stand there and have a conversation with Natasha, before she turns and walks away. To my friend, Natasha seems fun, interesting and quick to laugh. To me, she is fake, rude and boring. Why? Natasha spoke about a topic my friend finds interesting, and laughed at her joke. But for me, Natasha reminds me of a friend I used to dislike in middle school and made a derogatory comment about my hometown.
We both leave the party with a completely different perception of Natasha, based on the story we gave her. That story is shaped on our past experiences which have shaped our current day beliefs.
Same facts, different experiences
Ever had it when you experience exactly the same circumstances, but feel completely differently about them?
If you change your beliefs about a set of circumstances, those circumstances will appear differently to you.
It’s dark. There’s a guy outside my house wearing a hoody. (Come to think of it, there are very few houses or hoodys in Dubai, so probably best pictured in another city). If I read about a robbery in my area on the way home and remember I was nearly robbed at university (Nottingham, it happens) I am fearful and anxious walking home. I’m convinced the guy with the hoody is about to rob me. I come home another night, having read a lovely story about a cat being rescued, not recalling the past robbery and thinking about my friend Robbie who lives on the same road and often wears a hoody. I see the guy outside my home, think of Robbie, give him a smile and walk straight on in.
The facts have not changed. It’s dark. There is a guy wearing a hoody standing outside my house, who may or may not be a robber. However, my perception of the situation is completely different, just because of my story.
My past experiences and beliefs that day have created that story for that day.
Our beliefs shape our behaviour
...and our behaviour influences our world.
The way we behave in any given situation is based on our beliefs about that situation. We will do what we believe we should do in that situation. The “should” could be based on what we believe we “ought” to do, or what we believe will give us the most “benefit” in that situation (such as increased happiness, ease, monetary gain or reputation).
There is a beggar on the street. Child A has been brought up being told that all beggars are con artists, controlled by drug lords and gain nothing from receiving any money. Child B was brought up being told to always give to those less fortunate than him, regardless of their circumstances.
Child A will be able to walk past the beggar, not give any money and not feel any guilt for not doing so.
Child B stops and has a conversation with the beggar, gives him nearly all the cash he has on and walks away thinking about whether there is anything more he can do.
Now, I’m not Child A nor Child B and I’m not saying you have to act a certain way around beggars. There aren’t any in Dubai for starters. What I am pointing out is that the same situation can trigger completely different behaviour based on the beliefs of the individuals experiencing it.
Once we start to understand that our behaviour is personal to us, and is based on our beliefs, we can start to change our behaviour. First you’ll need to change your beliefs. And before that, you’ll need to understand what your beliefs are. Told you it was a bit deep.
How discovering this is the best thing that has ever happened to you
You cannot control anything that happens to you. You might think you can, but you can’t. Dubai will be Dubai whatever you or I may think about it. Natasha is Natasha. The beggar is on the street.
What you can control is you. You can control your reactions, beliefs and behaviours. By understanding how your past experiences have shaped your beliefs today, you can change how you perceive any situation.
You can, quite literally, find zen in any given situation. You can work out what is triggering you and why. You can work out how you need to adapt the story you are giving a situation to make it present how you would like it to.
For example, I could get annoyed when someone cuts me up in traffic (this happens about a hundred times a day in Dubai). I could tell myself that this is a rude, arrogant driver with no manners who has not been brought up properly. Or I can tell myself that this is a loving parent who is running late because of helping an old lady with her shopping and is now desperate to get to their child’s school concert on time. Yes, I hear you, the odds point one way. But telling yourself the first story will only make you feel annoyed. Telling yourself the second story will make you accept the situation and get on with your day.
Change what you are actually capable of changing (yourself) and you can change your entire world. That’s not actually an exaggeration.
Now, understanding yourself, your beliefs, your triggers and your behaviours is a highly complex process and takes time. I’m not going to go into it today.
What I do want to point out is that you have the power to change your life. And not through changing the circumstances around you, but by changing you.