The Reality of It is Up to You

About a year ago, I read a book by Neale Donald Walsch called "Conversations with God." In the book, Walsch writes, “...no condition is 'good' or 'bad.' It just is.” I took this to mean that what makes something good or bad is the manner in which you perceive that thing. Practicing this relativist approach to one’s affairs can potentially be a game changer for the typical college student. Since reading Walsch’s book, I have been practicing perceiving things that I generally see as bad as simply being, or even as beneficial. This idea truly came through for me while I was studying abroad in Madrid. I flew to Barcelona to visit my friend one day, and I turned off my phone before the flight, as is the norm. I also had an iPod, which had died on the flight over.  After turning my phone back on upon my arrival, I found my phone requiring a PIN code to be turned back on—a PIN code that I had left written on a piece of paper in my bedroom in Madrid. Furthermore, I had been counting on calling or texting my friend to get the address for his apartment.

I felt my face growing hot in panic but quickly convinced myself that this was not a bad thing. Rather than seeing myself as completely screwed, I saw my predicament as a challenge. I told myself that, once I figured my way through this, similar predicaments in the future would not be a problem. Four hours later, after a flurry of poorly understood directions and failed attempts at remedying the situation, I managed to inconspicuously charge my iPod on an iPod dock in an electronic store, go to a Starbucks, buy a coffee, which came with a complimentary Wi-Fi code, and send a message to my friend via Facebook, to which he promptly responded with his apartment address. I then google mapped my way over to his house with further difficulty, given the vague screenshot I took before leaving my Wi-Fi behind in Starbucks.

The lesson of this story is that the world only exists as you perceive it. Or rather it merely exists, and the way you perceive it is the manner in which it exists. To better illustrate this, let us look at a more common case. Let’s say there is a girl, Sally, who is cold towards you. You’ve noticed Sally being warm with other people, and you think she must not like you. From this point on, you interpret all of her actions towards you as being influenced by her distaste for you. You create this internal story of why she doesn’t like you, and it all makes sense from the storyline that you’ve created. Furthermore, even if just for a second, you question your own character. Then you find out from her friend that, in fact, she thinks you’re really cute, but she thinks that you don’t like her. Your storyline completely readjusts itself to allow for this new information (Can I get an amen, psych majors?). Your old perception of how things were now seems ridiculous. You realize that you’ve been projecting the same uneasiness that you had sensed from her. Now, that whiff of self doubt dissolves into a foolish thought.

The case just given demonstrates how quickly a certain perception of the world can alter dramatically and thus alter your world. Your world is only as you interpret it and nothing more. Since you are a part of the world, the way you perceive yourself is just as pertinent. We’ve all heard the phrase, “Confidence is key.” However, oftentimes we look down upon a person who seems overly confident and label him as conceited or cocky. This is because confidence as a character trait does not have value in and of itself, but rather the reality that is constantly created from a feeling of confidence has value. Someone who is eager to engage with other people and feels confident enough to execute such eagerness will come across as engaging and interesting and, in doing so, will cause his subjects to be equally engaged. Not everyone desires to be a social being. However, confidence allows for one to create his own reality, whether that is as a writer finding interesting ways of conveying familiar ideas or as a finance major working his way through levels of interviews. If you accept that you are going to succeed, you will create that reality. If you are hoping to succeed, you are implying uncertainty, and uncertainty will be created as a result.

Let’s go back to the Sally example. Now imagine that Sally actually doesn’t like you, and furthermore there are a lot of people who dislike you, and nothing you do is going to change that. Even an extreme case such as this is not a hopeless one. While there is nothing you can do to change the minds of those people, you can change your own mind. You can stop concerning yourself with acceptance from those people. Having such concern in your world has only brought you pain. You are not happy with your world as it presently is, so why not change your world to a better one that does not concern others' acceptance? You are not disillusioning yourself at all; you are merely changing your perspective on the world.

Almost always, we place value judgments on things, saying this is good, that’s bad, but just remember my story from the beginning; things are neither good nor bad, they just are, unless you say otherwise. Even vision, sight, smell, and taste are all interpretations of the outside world. This approach is not limited to just uncomfortable mental states, but physical states, as well. Give it a whirl in the ice bath. All of your senses are merely your brain's interpretation of neural impulses. This follows to your thoughts and feelings about the world and the people in it. The world is nothing more than your individual interpretation of it or, on a broader scale, a collection of interpretations varying from one person to the next. There are certain facts in the world that are not going to change, but you can change how you perceive them.