In the previous Energy Leadership™ blog post, we explored limiting beliefs, the first of the Big 4 energy blocks which prevent you from making conscious choices and reaching your potential.
Time to examine the second block—interpretations. When you interpret, you create an opinion about a person, event, situation or experience. In essence, you create an explanation and then look for evidence to support its validity. Though an interpretation often represents only one viewpoint among many that are possible, when you interpret, you don’t even recognize that other valid explanations exist.
Because interpretations hold a stronger energetic charge than limiting beliefs, they also have a greater effect on your emotions and actions and can be harder to escape. If you believe your viewpoint of a particular situation is the only explanation, you may end up wasting a lot of time and energy—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual—marching off in the wrong direction. Because you don’t recognize other possibilities, you remain stuck in your version of the story—feeling like a victim with no control over the outcome.
Interpretations go something like this:
- He doesn’t like me.
- She thinks I’m incompetent.
- They don’t want to follow orders.
- My son doesn’t do his homework because he’s lazy.
As blocks go, because interpretations are more personal than limiting beliefs, they can be more difficult to recognize and neutralize. Holding onto them can seem like the easy way out, because facing them may move you into uncharted territory. However, they are always worth the effort and the risk because challenging your interpretations opens you up to a world of possibilities. Even if you conclude that among the many alternatives, your original interpretation is the most valid, the broader examination of multiple options will have provided you with more confidence and commitment in following wherever your initial conclusion now leads.
Consider this example. Imagine you come into work on Monday morning excited to share a great, time sensitive business opportunity with your boss. But when he arrives to work two hours late, he barely acknowledges your greeting, storms into his office and closes the door. You interpret your boss’ bad mood as a sign that he’s ticked off with you. So instead of sharing your cool idea, you spend the day obsessing over what you did wrong and plotting how to avoid him for as long as possible.
Three days later you learn that your boss’ cranky demeanor on Monday was due to a fender bender he had on the way to work. Too late now, because during the intervening days, the window of opportunity closed on your potential new initiative while you hid from his imagined ire. When in fact, if you had approached him on Monday with your hope-filled possibility, it might have been just the ticket to helping him shift his own outlook days sooner—for which he might have been eternally grateful and through which you would have demonstrated yet again your great value to his organization.
So, how can you challenge your own interpretations? Confront them directly! Start with, “That’s one possibility. What are three different ways to look at that?” Just realizing that there are other ways to read the data lessens the power of your interpretation and introduces more objectivity and the potential for accuracy. One way to do this is to imagine what another individual’s perspective of the situation might be. Actually asking for someone else’s point of view on a difficult situation—even if she or he isn’t directly involved—can break down your existing paradigms and open pathways for more satisfying solutions.
In the example of the out-of-sorts boss, parent, spouse or sibling, perhaps his or her crankiness has nothing to do with you. Maybe you can help provide support and shift whatever storm clouds are looming. And, if you are indeed the intended target of the dark mood, isn’t it more productive to engage constructively to better understand so you can begin the process of repairing and rebuilding your relationship?
You stewing in your own juices and getting steamed up as well doesn’t usually help. On the contrary, it often escalates what was a minor infraction into a huge flippin’ drama. Likewise, cowering in avoidance doesn’t help either. It allows the other person’s anger-inducing interpretations to keep gaining momentum, unchecked by other more benign possibilities. SUCK IT UP AND JUST TALK, FOR PITY’S SAKE. Maybe, once you park your interpretations, you’ll find you can both actually laugh about how gravely you misread each other and the situation.
So, whenever you catch yourself “jumping to conclusions” and believing the first story that comes to mind, exercise greater creativity by considering other possibilities that could lead you—and everyone around you—to new, more empowering choices and actions. Choose your energy: change your life!
In the next Energy Leadership post, we’ll explore the third of the Big 4 energy blocks—assumptions.
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