Separate realities

What if everyone lives in a different and separate reality?

Today I noticed the flowers on the hearth. They are absolutely stunning. Yesterday I barely noticed their existence I was so caught up in my thinking.  

Yesterday everything looked difficult, today everything looks - well simple! Yesterday my To Do List looked monstrous, today it looks doable. Nothing has changed. Just two examples of how in my mind, the same thing looks different at different times.  

I could argue that our reality changes almost every moment of every day, because our thinking moves all the time. Thoughts pass through, changing as they go, and where you focus and what you focus on changes along with it, to become a different reality.  

If you’d have asked me yesterday, I would have told you that my To Do List looked insurmountable all day, but throughout the day I would forget about my list and do something. I would forget about how insurmountable it was and feel ok. I would forget how difficult my life was (or rather how difficult I thought my life was in the moment) and it would be easy for a while.  

One day something looks funny, another day the same thing makes me angry. One day something worries me and another day it doesn’t. One day I feel down, the next day I feel upbeat, but nothing has changed. 

What if it’s thought that creates your experience of life

In my mind I am experiencing shifting perspectives all the time. Now add someone else into the mix.  

No two people experience the exactly the same thinking, so no two people ever experience the same reality. Although from the outside it can look very similar. 

When Ash and I go for a walk, he will point to something and I will look where he’s pointing and it appears that we’re looking at the same thing. Then we realise that he is looking at a butterfly and I am looking at a flower. Or he’s pointing to the trees and I’m looking at the field behind it, or the bush in front of it. While walking we have times of complete silence between us. We’re both in a world of our own. We’re both enjoying what looks like the same experience – the walk, but we are living in two separate realities.  

Now add a handful of people into the mix and we have multiple separate realities going on, all at the same time. Like in a meeting for example. Several people talking about the same problem or issue, all with different thinking, different backgrounds, different perspectives informing their experience. These separate realities can often look like the cause of conflict in a team of people.  

What one person sees as a helpful addition to the conversation another sees as an indictment about their capability. 

What one person sees as a reasonable question another sees as an unnecessary demand.  

What one person sees as a constructive criticism another sees as an undermining of their authority.  

When one person contributes to a conversation and is surprised that others in the room don’t see it the way they do, it’s because people are all in separate realities.  

When people have an expectation that everyone’s reality should be the same as theirs, then there’s a good chance that these separate realities will result in negativity and conflict. 

However, without that expectation and with an understanding that we all live in separate realities and that it is a good thing, then those separate realities bring about positive outcomes. These separate realities bring about a wider perspective to the issue, a deeper understanding of the problem and a broader range of possible solutions. 

Solving an intractable problem

When people are accepting of others separate realities, there is no conflict, just a difference of opinion, and these differences can bring about better solutions.  

All teams are made up of individuals living in separate realities.  

Teams in negative conflict are made up of individuals living in separate realities but with an expectation that all the realities should be the same.  

High performing teams welcome, appreciate and value the separate realities of all of the individual team members and leverage those separate realities to become a great team. 

Read some of our other What if articles here.

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