“Celebrate what you want to see more of!” Tom Peters
Have you ever played this game? You’re given a tray of objects to look at to test your powers of observation. Then given a few seconds to study and memorize it before it is removed from your view. After something is removed, the tray is re-presented to our view. Then we are asked “What is missing?”
This game highlights a quality of how we perceive the world that is worth looking at as we consider cultivating gratitude and appreciation
Our perceptions are strongly influenced by our senses. What we perceive tends to be weighted in favor of our sensory experience. My eyes see all the objects currently on the tray and believe the reality of that experience more than the knowing stored in my memory of what was there a few moments before. Being grounded in our physical experience is a gift. It keeps us present in our bodies. It keeps us aware of our immediate environment as we see, smell, hear, taste, and touch. We use this information to sustain life and develop our preferences. Sour milk smells bad and will make us sick, so we avoid it. I like the warm sunshine more than the snow, although both can be good or bad for me. I watched my children develop and was impressed by the different things each was drawn to. My son was all action and noise and doing; my daughter was still and wide-eyed and observant, preferring to feed herself her own bottle, while her brother wanted to be held and coddled and talked to. Knowing what we prefer helps inform our sense of identity and eventually guides us to our purpose.
There is another level of experience that also effects the ability to remember an item in the game we talked about earlier. The emotional landscape of our experiences is seated deep in the brain and is more influential on our choices and perceptions. For instance if I have an emotional experience embedded in my memory that would have given the missing object significance to me beyond the visual experience of seeing it. Perhaps the item removed from the tray was an old skeleton key. Perhaps as a child my grandmother’s dress up trunk was opened by such a key. Perhaps I have hours of happy memories playing dress up and make-believe in her attic with my favorite cousins. Because I have a story in place that gives a skeleton key importance, therefore, I will notice its absence.
Our day-to-day lives are like the game. What do we see? How are we perceiving the world around us? How do our emotions and senses, as well as our thinking and preferences, work together to create our experience? What things, people, emotions, and experiences do we focus on and which of those do we edit out?
Scientists, philosophers, and shamans all seek to answer these questions and guide our understanding in various ways. I am none of those. But I am a woman who wants an elevated life. I seek to develop wisdom and beauty and truth and charity so they can rule my soul. I wish to become the whole pantheon of virtues like patience, humility, generosity, courage, fairness, and mercy.
The genesis of all these is Gratitude and Appreciation. This is where we begin if we want to become better than we are today. If we want better relationships. If we desire to create a better world for everyone we start with understanding, practicing, expressing and becoming Gratitude and Appreciation.