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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Reality, take one

Wait, you already have one. So do I.

Reality filters are the way human beings see themselves and the world around them (you can also call them "points of view"). They are like snowflakes where every one is different from the others even if minutely so. Filters are comprised of many things, like results of:
  • Upbringing and influence (manipulation) of others
  • Environment
  • Significant events in life
  • Likes and dislikes
One could argue there are multiple realities, you know, that everyone has his or her own reality (this may be the genesis of the "perception is reality" phrase; I don't know).

The other possibility that I think of is that there is one reality, but none of us see it totally clearly and definitely not the same as anyone else around us. That's because we see reality through our unique filters.

If we look at it from a leadership or teamwork view, filters can be good when we use them to create, like in a project team, because each of us can bring our own perspective to the group. Filters in the form of wisdom can be great as we act as teachers and mentors imparting our perspective on a problem, issue, or challenge.

However, filters can be bad when our views and outlook diminish those around us. Filters can hinder progress when they halt or slow down creativity. Filters can cause us to discriminate. Filters can cause us to think more or less of ourselves than we should and can have the same effect as we look at those we lead, collaborate with, or even work for.

Filters aren't going away. We'll always have them. So, how can we ensure our filters are used only for good? Is it enough that we are aware of them, so we may try to understand how they affect our views and ideas? Can "suspending our assumptions" like I mentioned in my last post help us overcome the negative aspects of our filters?


  1. Could you also call reality filters, "life context"?
    The more we live the more "context" we have to address the events in our lives. For example, if you read a powerful novel like Flaubert's "Madame Bovary" in college at age 19 or so, you probably have a very limited "life context", so are more apt to judge the characters and their actions since you can't possibly "relate" to them. If you were to reread the book at say, age 40 when you have a broader "life context" you might find yourself much more readily empathizing with the characters and their choices. I suppose having a broader life context in a leadership position can either make you wiser and more empathetic to others, or more jaded and less likely to take chances. As someone who became a teacher in midlife, I have found my broader life context to be a powerful tool in the classroom. I am amazed that 24 year olds are able to function as leaders in a classroom with such a limited life context. Here I am going on about "context" when that may not be at all what you are referring to when you say "reality filter."
    Certainly studying individuals in history or reading powerful literature that tackles basic human emotions will widen one's reality filter.

  2. I couldn't agree more. And our reality filters or contexts are probably what shaped the words I wrote and the comments you shared.

    Thanks for taking the time.


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