Are You Aligned With Reality?

Or Do You See What You Believe And Act On That?

Are you aligned with reality? Or do you see what you believe? Graphic

What Does It Mean To Be Aligned With Reality?

Being aligned with reality starts with a clear and accurate understanding of the world. It means perceiving and understanding the world as it truly is, without distortion or delusion.

Shane Parrish of Farnam Street describes alignment as:

"The key to success nobody ever taught you.

The person who aligns themselves with the general principles of the world goes further and faster than the person who doesn’t."

This sounds simple but is hard to put into practice.

We tend to see that which aligns with what we believe, and to act upon those beliefs rather than act in alignment with reality.

Blinded by experience

In my 'day job' I work in the fuel industry representing a major supplier of crude oil and putting together high value supply contracts with oil refineries. This supplier is extremely knowledgeable and very experienced.

This great experience is often very helpful, but it does mean that on occasions he is blinded, and thus bound, by that experience to not see the present realities of a complex and constantly changing market.

So I sometimes find myself in situations where I bring forward a new potential buyer and present their requirement and my supplier just doesn't listen, prefering to assess the situation on the basis of his past experience.

I had an experience with him recently when he spent about 10 minutes telling me how it ought to be rather than how it was. In the end I just said to him:

"Bob, this is the current discount that is being offered on this crude oil, it doesn't matter what you think or I think, it doesnt matter what you think it ought to be, this is how it is  right now, do you want the business or not?"  [He did.]

The issue isn't past experience and the beliefs that we hold, the issue is our attachment to that experience and those beliefs.

Many of us would rather die [and often do] before we are willing and able to change our beliefs.

Beginners mind

The zen approach to this challenge is to frame it in terms of Beginners Mind. Zen master Shunryu Suzuki captured this very succinctly:

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few."

The implication is that to have knowledge and experience of a subject  - to have the mind of an expert - is limiting and we should always assume the mindset of a novice with no prior knowledge or expertise and maintain an open mind.

This is not what Suzuki is saying, he continues:

“In the beginner's mind there is no thought that: 'I have attained something.'

When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners.”

The key to this is "no thought of self".

So what we are talking about here is someone with great experience, an expert, performing with no ego involved. An expert with humility and openness.

The beginner's mind is not a mind devoid of knowledge, expertise and experience but a state of mind that is devoid of ego.

The Characteristics Of A Beginners Mind Aligned With Reality

Beginners mind.Graphic

This is what being aligned with reality looks like:

  • Objective Perception - Individuals aligned with reality perceive the world objectively, free from undue influence of personal biases, emotions, or preconceived notions. They strive to see things as they are, without distorting or filtering information to fit their desires.
  • Truth Acknowledgment - Being aligned with reality requires a willingness to confront and acknowledge the truth, even if it contradicts one's expectations or desires. This includes facing both personal truths and broader societal realities.
  • Evidence-Based Thinking - A reality-aligned mindset involves relying on evidence and facts rather than relying solely on opinions, assumptions, or unverified information. Critical thinking and a commitment to evidence-based reasoning are essential components.

These are the qualities that a beginners mind brings to being aligned with reality:

  • Adaptability - Those aligned with reality are generally more adaptable to change. They understand that circumstances evolve, and being open to adjusting their perspectives and strategies in response to new information is a key characteristic.
  • Emotional Intelligence - Emotional intelligence is closely tied to being aligned with reality. Understanding and managing one's own emotions, as well as empathizing with the emotions of others, contributes to a more grounded and realistic approach to interpersonal relationships.
  • Resilience - Being aligned with reality fosters resilience in the face of challenges. Rather than denying or avoiding difficulties, individuals who acknowledge and accept the reality of their circumstances are better equipped to navigate adversity.
  • Balanced Optimism - While acknowledging reality, being aligned with it doesn't mean succumbing to pessimism. Instead, it involves a balanced form of optimism that is rooted in a realistic assessment of the situation. This type of optimism is more resilient, as it is based on a clear understanding of both challenges and opportunities.

Being aligned with reality requires:

  • Continuous Learning and Growth - A reality-aligned mindset encourages continuous learning and personal growth. Individuals who recognize their strengths and weaknesses can proactively work towards improvement, fostering a mindset of lifelong development.
  • Holistic Approach - In essence, being aligned with reality is a holistic approach to understanding oneself, others, and the world. It forms the foundation for making sound decisions, building healthy relationships, and navigating the complexities of life with clarity and purpose.

Common Reasons Why We Struggle To Be Aligned With Reality

Why we struggle to accept reality. Graphic

Shane Parrish shares several common reasons why we struggle to be aligned with reality:

[1] Changing your mind is harder with subjective situations

'If you want to be right, you have to change your mind. When the evidence indicates the approach isn’t working, change the approach.

This is easy with something like math, where the answers are black and white, but harder with more subjective things.'

[2] Changing your mind is hardest where outcomes are deferred

'Often the hardest things to change our minds about are the things that require us to understand that just because we can’t see the results immediately doesn’t mean they are not moving us closer or further from the outcome we want.

For instance, eating a full pizza once won’t make you unhealthy, but repeating that choice daily for years certainly will.'

[3] Preferring to feel right rather than being right

'Feeling right, on the other hand, often requires you to believe you are an exception.

You know the path to financial independence, but that takes too long. It’s boring. Instead, you’d rather try the latest incarnation of a get-rich-quicker scheme that promises the outcome sooner.

When it inevitably fails to produce the desired results, rather than tell yourself you made a mistake you chalk it up to the world not working as it should.

It’s as if that little voice in your head says, You’re not wrong; the world is.' 

[4] Trying to bargain with reality

'Most of us would rather bargain with how the world works than accept how it does work, cooperate with it, and move forward.

This happens in a lot of areas of life. Consider the general concept of health.

A lot of people think they don’t have to take care of their health. They get too little sleep. They drink too much. They eat incredible amounts of processed food. They get little to no exercise.

While they know health is important, at some level they think they are the exception. Acceptance is knowing you must care for your health because it is the foundation for everything else. Without health, everything else multiplies by zero.'

[5] Believing we are the exception

'We are tempted to believe we’re the exception because it’s the easy path.

Aligning with the world often requires you to pre-pay now for a result later. A little bit of pain today for gain tomorrow. And we don’t like the sounds of that.

However, if you can align yourself with the world despite what those around you do, you’ll quickly discover that it tends to do most of the work for you. It just won’t take the first step for you. You have to take that one for yourself.'

    Here’s the trick to seeing things differently: put your energy into being right, not feeling right. While that sounds simple, it’s far from easy.

    Shane Parrish

Practical Steps To Becoming Aligned With Reality

Mental models.Graphic

One of the core themes of this site is what I call the law of response and outcome which suggests that the outcomes that you experience are determined by your responses to the events in your life.

The strength and quality of your response is determined by the skills and the experience you bring to it, and the stronger your response - the better the outcome. The cumulative effect of these responses has a compounding effect on your life - for better of for worse.

Responding to situations in a way that is fully aligned with reality is fundamental to this approach.

In my experience there are two important areas to look at, understand and apply if you are serious about taking some practical step to becoming aligned with reality:

  1. The inner world of how your brain works and how your brain gets hi-jacked.
  2. The mental models that underlie reality and provide practical high level representations of how things work

How your brain gets hi-jacked

Your thoughtful and rational brain gets hijacked in so many ways, for example it:

...and so much more.

The mental models of how things work that underlie reality

As the late Charlie Munger put it:

“You don’t have to know everything. A few really big ideas carry most of the freight.”

"It’s kind of fun to sit there and out-think people who are way smarter than you are because you’ve trained yourself to be more objective and more multidisciplinary."

This site has very many practical articles with resources that cover this broad area of mental models and many associated articles about how to think clearly.

There are far to many articles to list here and I suggest you refer to the index tabs of the left column of this page, and the site map and search tool.

A good place to start is with these 2 links:

How To Think - Focusing On HOW Not WHAT To Think

Mental Models - Help You Think Effectively

    "...the world will do most of the work for you, provided you cooperate with it by identifying how it really works and aligning with those realities. If we do not let the world teach us, it teaches us a lesson."

    Joseph Tussman

Living Beyond Reality

Living beyond reality.Graphic

So far so good. But it doesn't necessarily end there. What we have discussed so far is about how to be aligned with reality, but it goes further. I am aware of least two more levels beyond the conventional understanding of reality.

Don't worry, I am not going down New Age rabbit holes such as the so called law of attraction and other forms of magical thinking.

But for any reader who is not interested in consciousness and the [non religious] spiritual dimension you may want to stop reading now.

What I want to briefly discuss is:

  1. Changing Reality - the gap between the reality we experience now and a future reality we may aspire to, and how we stand in that gap.
  2. Concious Reality - and how our experience of reality is shaped and transformed by "life living us" which occurs when consciousness and outcome are integrated.

Changing Reality

This really is about a transitional stage where we can find ourselves in one of two situations. Both of these situations are aspirational but the circumstance and conditions are quite different.

[1] Standing in the gap

Standing in the gap.Graphic

The first situation is where we stand between a present reality - the way things are - and a future where we know what they could be.

This is about living in, and being a part of, a transformation. It is not external to us it is within us. We are the process.

This gap can never be fully closed because the envisioned reality is always an aspiration.

The gap is where the action is.

Standing in the gap means:

  • Maintaining the balance. If you get drawn into reality you can get stuck in corrosive cynicism on the one hand and if you get drawn into possibility you can just float around in a dream of insubstantial idealism.
  • Dropping all former strategies that have worked so well for you in the past and being completely open to new ways of doing things. This is a paradigm shift as you release yourself from the grip of past success strategies.
  • Separating events from how you interpret them, and being prepared and open to not know and just let things happen and be. 
  • Where you do offer interpretations you do so from the position of future possibility not past experience.
  • Hold onto a belief in an ideal that you know you will one day reach, but: [a] without ever measuring your progress towards it; and [b] whilst you face the realities, and respond to the requirements, of the present moment.
  • That like the old samurai warriors you "die before you go into battle" - you face and accept failure and be prepared to lose everything: reputation, income, relationships  and in fact just about everything you hold dear and value, and all this before you start.
  • Making bold declarations of possibility and taking a stand on those declarations.
  • That you play an impossible game - an infinite game - and do so for the excitement and thrill of the game itself. It is a means to itself and not to an end.

[2] The Stockdale Paradox

Stockdale paradox.Graphic

This second situation is a variation of standing in the gap and is where you are stuck in a difficult or seemingly impossible set of circumstances and it just goes on and on and there is no end in sight... This is about how to deal with the attrition factor.

The Stockdale Paradox is named after the late James Stockdale, former vice presidential candidate, naval commander and prisoner of war during the American-Vietnam war.

It became well known having been featured in author and business guru Jim Collins’ book “Good To Great” following extensive interviews between Collins and Stockdale exploring how Stockdale survived 8 years of imprisonment and torture.

  • This is about how balancing realism and optimism in a dire situation is a key to survival and success.
  • Stockdale said that it was all about facing the daily grim realisties of being a prisoner of war and being tortured and yet holding an unshakeable faith that one day he would be free.
  • Interestingly, he said there was no place for optimism, he said that the optimists died of broken hearts.

What the Stockdale Paradox means is that in times of prolonged and seemingly never-ending hardship, set-backs, suffering and distress we need to maintain optimism that we will survive and pull through, and yet at the same time balance that with a total realism and practicality about the harsh present realities.

Conscious Reality

The Red Pill. Graphic

I have written elsewhere about my experiences of what happens when you take the red pill - where taking the red pill is a symbolic action and a metaphor for an experience of some form of  transcendent awakening.

Put very simply, I describe this as a shift from head to heart and what happens when you reach the point at which you start to seriously engage with consciousness via your higher self and start to live a life that is less ego driven and more grounded in the spiritual dimension.

What you fairly quickly discover is that:

  • When you take consciousness more seriously it engages and takes you more seriously and the "rules of the game" change.
  • The effect of a personal engagement with consciousness - or the energy of life as I refer to it -  quite literally reverses the rules of the game.
  • The things that used to work no longer work.
  • The old skills become irrelevant.
  • The model cracks and old certainties fail.
  • I mean all this quite literally and not metaphorically.
  • Once you start out on this journey there is no turning back. This is a high wire walk and the only way is forward.

This is a major inner realignment and a greater consciousness emerges and expresses itself through you.

Most of the world's major religions point to this transformation.

Tao Te Ching. Graphic

For example, the teachings in the Tao Te Ching point to a major realignment of how we normally function when we undergo a 180 degree shift from living MY life to a life that is lived by the Tao.

This is described in the Tao te Ching as being lived by the Tao. So rather than living by a set of eternal rules and guidelines this becomes internalised and reversed:

"Only in being lived by the Tao
can you truly be yourself." [22]

"Let the Tao be present in your life
and you will become genuine." [54]

Here is a personal experience that I shared about something that happened to me about 15 years ago.

This is difficult for the natural egoic mind to comprehend as it requires a renewal of your mind.

The consciousness driven life

The consciousness driven life.Graphic

Renewing your mind is based on practices, not beliefs, that will have a profound and positive effect on your life.

This all takes work and effort as the human mind runs on deeply ingrained and habitual patterns of thought.

This is an internal integration and alignment of the inner reality and what manifests in the outer reality. 

  • As a result of this transformation, you live by the spirit rather then by the ego, and consciousness lives through you.
  • Reality, as you experience it, is an outward expression of this internal process.
  • Manifesting is a natural and automatic consequence of this process.

This is a complete reversal of the usual ego-driven idea of manifestation.

    When consciousness is living in and through you, and your life is lived in alignment with your life purpose, and you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, when consciousness prompts, you declare and call out your reality and it manifests.

Further Reading:

How Things Really Are - The Inbuilt Design Flaws

The Red Pill - This Is What Will Happen After You Take It

Deus Ex Machina - Consciousness Is Now The God In Our Machine

The Greatest Love - The Most Important Relationship You Will Ever Have

Tao Te Ching - Connecting To Your True Source Of Power

Beginners Mind And The Voice Of Experience

Everything Is Connected And Why You Don't Feel It

Return from: "Are You Aligned With Reality?" to: Walking The Talk

Or Return to: What Is Spirituality?

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