Think about the last time you went to the cinema. You went about the business of getting a ticket, maybe got some food, then found your seat. Now, from the time of watching the movie, what do you actually remember?
Do you remember the colours of the walls, or the position of the speakers, or maybe the patterns on the floor? Most likely not, most likely you only remember the content of the film and maybe any interruptions to that experience (perhaps someone brought out their phone or the two teenagers behind you were chatting).
What we’re looking at
That’s all to do with the way we perceive information. When we’ve got a clear goal in mind or a clear objective, we tend to see information by a certain set of values; will it help us, hinder us, or should it be ignored?
Imagine you walk into a room and want to sit down. Inside the room there’s a beanbag, a stool and a couch. Or, if you want to sit down, there’re “three things to sit on”. We then organise them in a hierarchy determined by our values. We want to sit down, we want it to be comfortable and we want it to be socially acceptable. That probably puts the lounge on top because it fits all the parameters of the goal.
Maybe there’s a table in the way of the stool, so suddenly the table becomes something that “hinders us”, or maybe there’s a fan in the room, that’s something that, at that moment, should “be ignored”.
We do this every moment of every day. When we’re driving, we do it at an intense scale so quickly that we don’t even perceive it. This is why when we’re first learning we freak out, because there’s so much information and we haven’t categorised it into an order of things to “help, hinder or be ignored”.
So, what does this mean?
It’s fascinating really, because what it means, is that what we’re looking for determines the way we place values in the world and develop a framework to see the world. Like, we see everything, but like I pointed out with the cinema, we ignore a lot of it unless it helps or hinders us. And if we are conscious of this, then we can totally change our lives.
So how does that work?
Well, think about it. If I just described how we do that on a micro-scale, like with driving – street lamps are generally ignored unless they are going to directly hinder our car – then it’s a logical assumption that we could do it on the macro.
I want to be a teacher. I really value the idea that children and young people can be educated and formed into highly competent and respected individuals. So with that knowledge, that aim, suddenly I can take stock of everything I’m doing in life and see whether it all lines up with that goal – do they help or hinder me or should they be ignored – of becoming a teacher.
Suddenly I might find there’re a lot of things that don’t line up with my goal. Maybe staying up late watching movies or playing video games every night is definitely not helping me but hindering me. Maybe I enjoy it a little at the time, but in the long run, it’s not very meaningful at all. Maybe I have a few habits which need the flick to properly orient myself with what is meaningful and not what is expedient.
Well, this is only scratching the top of the iceberg in terms of my thoughts on the subject. It’ll take a while to figure out just how much value can be applied from this small idea of what we’re aiming towards determining the way we perceive the world. Maybe I’ll unpack more later, maybe I won’t. But I want to posit to you now; does everything in your life line up with what you’re aiming towards?
You see, one of the main things that differentiates humans from animals is this idea that we can offset gratification; we can sacrifice happiness in the moment for greater happiness later.
So earlier when I said about not staying up late to watch movies and play video games so that you can better focus on your goal, this is what I was suggesting. Of course, part of getting to your goal is having good mental health, so I’m not saying sacrifice fun for your whole life, you should absolutely allow yourself to regularly relax and rest and enjoy yourself.
But have a good look at what you’re doing. See if it lines up with what you really want. Be honest with yourself. Maybe a few things you’re doing need to be removed. That’s up to you.
Look, there’s a lot more to this, but I’m hoping I’ve introduced the idea to you to consider along with me. I wouldn’t claim to be an expert on anything (except maybe Mario Kart), but I’d just invite you, friends, to genuinely have a think about this. Because I have been, and it has genuinely changed my life.
Josiah Gray lives in Logan City, Australia. He is currently studying teaching at Christian Heritage College and is committed to telling the story of Jesus to the next generation.