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The doors of perception.

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.”
Aldous Huxley

When I first heard about The Doors in the 70’s as a grade schooler, I had no idea why a band would name themselves after something so simple as a door. I pondered what kind of door could inspire a band? Was it the pure simplicity of opening and shutting a piece of a wall that was so compelling? Was it a brown door, a white door or a glass door? And then I completely forgot my questions as I trudged through my teenage years reading gothic romances, historical fiction, and Mad magazine. Then, I discovered Carlos Castaneda. Reading his first three books felt deliciously adult and shifted the way I perceived my life and how I wanted to live. From that point on, I was mystified by perception and how different people saw things so completely differently. This is when I also realized I wanted to be a psychologist. Perception has been a lifelong muse ever since. One of my most treasured quotes from him is this: “The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.” To me this is the essence of perception. We determine how we look at things, and we must do this consciously, and whether or not you do think consciously, the work of life is the same. Why be miserable? Change your perception of what is happening.

 

If only it were so easy, but perhaps it is just that easy. Having witnessed death in family and friends where long-term illnesses wreaked havoc on people I loved, it is easy to slide into despair and rant about how hard life can be, how cruel a fate, how physically painful, and how fickle it is in whom it blesses with health, and whom it does not. My family and friends chose to be happy even during horrendous and challenging struggles, perhaps because they knew their life was so short. Could I not do the same? It was a matter of perception, what is real and what is not.

 

As an executive coach, my own life experiences cannot help but inform how I work with clients. Perception, my muse, is often the blind spot that hurts many leaders. Their ability to “see things as they are” is difficult when they only see things from their perspective. A leader’s ability to integrate multiple viewpoints and perceptions into a mosaic whole that makes sense is an art that few master. Sometimes I feel my job is to eliminate “how did I not see that?” from my client’s expressions. I do this by helping them to open their own doors of perception about who they are, what matters most, and by expanding their understanding of their current realities through multiple perspectives.

Oh, and The Doors? I get it now.

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