Life Lessons – There is Only Reality

There are no rights or wrongs, there is only reality.

Stage 2 in my book, beginning on page 13, is based on an idea we rarely consider: “Recognizing Perceptions vs Reality.” Most of the time we live in one reality that sees things consistent with the way we want them to be. All the while a second reality exists where we experience things that we judge as being outside of how we want them to be. We face this dilemma with disorientation or anger as we work feverishly, attempting to reestablish things the way we think they should be.

The argument could be made that we are confronted with this type of situation daily in many small ways that keeps us in a state of irritation. For example, people driving in a way we dislike, someone’s work habits that are different than our own, waiting a little longer than normal for a restaurant server to bring our order. We likely act as if we were justified in our discomfort and voice our concern with indignance.

Other, more consequential examples represent hotly debated issues causing people to become highly exercised while the facts of the ground are clear for all to see. For example, family structure is different then it was in the past and is continuing to change whether we like it or not. As chronicled in a recent series of articles in a special edition of Time Books in 2018, family structure has changed dramatically since the 1945 and is continuing to change in many unforeseen ways. Why would anyone argue against this change in social mores when they are clearly not capable of imposing the remedy they would want to see? If there are detrimental consequences to this evolving social structure they will soon become apparent and a natural adjustment will take place on its own and will be in line with what we would like to see or not. In other words, why argue that something is right or wrong when reality is and always will be unmistakably evident.

This illustration calls attention to the discomfort we cause ourselves when we refuse to let go of some preconceived notion of the way things should be. If we approach a subject with the idea that we have the right, therefore the only, answer, then we setup a lose / lose scenario where we can never win nor will we allow another point of view to win all the time ignoring a healthy diversity in thought and experience.

In the words of Steven R. Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he offers the solution to seeing things only from a ridged perspective. The fifth habit is “Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.” In the section of this chapter titled “Empathetic Listening”, on page 251 he states:

“Seek first to understand involves a very deep shift in paradigm. We typically seek first to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. They’re either speaking or preparing to speak. They’re filtering everything through their own paradigms, reading their autobiography into other people’s lives. …

Empathetic listening is risky. It takes a great deal of internal security to go into a deep listening experience because you open yourself up to be influenced. You become vulnerable. It’s a paradox, in a sense, because in order to have influence, you have to be influenced. That means you have to really understand.”

See the Steven Covey web site at:

Self-honesty about our strongly held reality, even as it relates to our bedrock principles, is necessary to achieve a true connection with life as it is. I use the following language in the first paragraph of Stage 2 in the book to make this point:

“We interpret everything that happens directly or indirectly through the lens of what we believe to be true. Our belief system is reinforced by what we see as evidence that our perceived truth is in fact true. This circular logic leaves us impervious to change.”

When we are willing to set aside our own point of view for a moment to carefully consider another’s point of view or to attempt to understand why things are the way they are, we become open instead of closed. Open does not mean “wishy-washy.” Acceptance that a reality beyond our frame of reference exists does not mean that we condone it or we are wrong for feeling the approach we espouse could have better outcomes. Neither does it mean that we need to keep stay quiet with our opinions. However, it does suggest that by applying humility, willingness, inclusiveness we can discuss our point of view within the context of another’s understanding of the issues. We can make our case with conviction but not as an absolute or as an ultimatum. These are the elements of maturity and the substance of disconnectedness.

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