Seeing deeply is the first step to wisdom. It is the ability to see reality as it is, directly, not as we have been conditioned to see it.
We all have filters that color how we see the world. These filters were created by life experiences that taught us what did and didn’t work in getting what we wanted. We internalized these life lessons as assumptions about “how the world works.” These assumptions become a kind of auto-pilot that distorts what we see.
The auto-pilot can be useful in navigating the every-day routines of life like dressing or commuting to work. But we fall into the habit of over-relying on the auto-pilot. When we see a friend or acquaintance walking toward us, we often do not actually see them for who they are in this moment. Instead, we pull up an old file about that person from our memory and we interact with them through that filter.
Seeing people primarily through our filters is a kind of surface interaction. If we can learn to recognize our auto-pilot and look beyond our old assumptions, we open up to a far greater amount of information in any situation. Our connections with others become stronger, life becomes more vibrant, and we have a greater range of options available to us.
Seeing deeply requires that we recognize the filters and the old auto-pilot behaviors that flow from them. This is hardest when we feel triggered by strong emotions or stressful events, like an argument with a loved one.
The first step is to pause. That pause creates just a tiny bit of distance between you and your auto-pilot filter, and that small separation can make all the difference.
It takes courage to take this simple pause. Every cell in your body may be screaming to take immediate action. The impulse to react usually arises as a form of self protection. Decline this invitation and you will have far more control over yourself and the situation.
In an argument, the impulse may come from the perception of being attacked and the need to defend yourself. If you can stay with this initial feeling for even a brief moment, you may see that no immediate action is really required. You may see that the other person is not really attacking you, that they are reacting out of their own triggers and old auto-pilot patterns.
A helpful antidote to reactivity is simply this – be curious. In that first instant of your pause, instead of closing down, use curiosity to help you stay open to the flow of information around you. Be curious about your internal reactions; be curious about what is happening in the other person; be curious about your emotions, whether they are anger, fear or righteous certitude. Stay open to information – no learning can come when you are contracted.
Pause. Don’t turn away. Stay open. Sense the rich field of information that is available. Act from your intuition and your insights. This is seeing deeply.
About the Author
Steve Sphar is a seasoned leadership consultant with over 25 years experience partnering with executives and managers to create sustained positive change. He was a practicing attorney for 12 years before turning his law and business experience to the field of leadership consulting. He helps managers and executives develop their leadership potential though one-on-one coaching, leadership training and facilitation of executive retreats. Read more about Steve.