Two versions of reality

Welcome to this month’s newsletter. This time, I would like to discuss how most of us operate through at least 2 different versions of reality. One is more factual and objective and is more truly representative of the real world. The other is more imaginary and subjective and could be said to represent what we would like the real world to be. Do you know which of these two realities we need to operate in, in order to be effective in our lives?

Let’s face it, most of us are very selective when it comes to forming our view on reality. If we have some sort of technical bias or emotional viewpoint, we tend to only pick up data that supports our already established viewpoint of the world. My observations tell me that most people’s so-called ‘reality’ has a very large degree of imagination and personal preference filtering.

Hence we rarely take actions based on actual and objective data. In other words, most of us tend to live in our own imagined reality. We don’t really want to get to the bottom of the reality we actually exist in, as it can be either too difficult or too painful for us.

For example, you can probably tell that someone is living in their imaginary reality when you come across the following:

  • A sales consultant never bothers to find out what their customers really want. He or she just imagines what their customers’ needs are and assumes that is the factual and objective reality. Sometimes it can be so far from the truth, that his or her sales performance never improves.
  • A sales manager never bothers to actually observe how a member of their sales team carries out the sale process. He or she assumes what that sales consultant’s problems might be by dreaming up their own version of the reality, hence that sales manager’s leadership will never be effective.
  • An operations manager never bothers to find out how an operation’s statistics are being collected, and whether they are being entered correctly and reported in a timely manner. He or she then dreams up an imaginary reality of the business operation and starts managing the business based on this imagined situation, and you wonder why the actual reality won’t improve much as it has never really been worked on.
  • A business owner never bothers to look into the actual performance statistics of their managers and staff, or never pays attention to how the statistics are collected and managed. Then we can assume that this business owner operates the business in his/her own fantasy and the rest of the business would be operating in a very different reality. (This sort of business is heaven for non-performers to hide in.)
  • A property developer never bothers to visit the development site to check out the physical surroundings and experience first-hand the sales speed and volume for the targeted price points from the surrounding sales offices. He or she purely makes their whole decisions based on an Excel spreadsheet file or a website. You know this developer is not far from disaster as he or she makes their development decisions within their own imagined reality.
  • A property investor never bothers to do their own research and selectively only listens to the positive information fed to them by eager real estate salesmen. One shouldn’t be surprised if the investment performance doesn’t turn out to be expected as the original assumption could be far from the actual reality.

So if we know it is very dangerous to live in our own imagined reality, then why are we so afraid to confront the actual reality of our lives and get to the bottom of things?

I think the following could be some possible reasons:

  • A habit of being lazy. We often stop short of discovering the essence of things, and we are too easily pleased to just get to know some superficial answers. We don’t develop the habit of asking a few more deeper and penetrating questions that begin with ‘Why…’.
  • We fill in missing data ourselves too quickly.  We are sometimes too quick to use our imagination, existing knowledge or past experience to form the whole picture when we are given only minimum data. We then insist in our own minds that we are right, even when we have no actual proof that is the case.
  • We prefer our easy-to-accept imagined reality than the real and factual one, as we may not like the latter.  This is like making something up to keep us happy and keep our hopes up for now despite there being the potential of much more severe pain later.

We have all heard the saying “do the hard bit now, things will be easier later”. IF we can all put our heads down and do the hard work to confront the factual and objective reality, things may not be as hard to manage.  Remember most people never really manage the actual reality hence things seem to be much harder. So when we have the courage to confront the actual reality, the solutions may be a lot easier to find and can also be a lot more direct and effective.

So to help us confront the actual reality, I thought the following steps might be of assistance:

  • We need to insist on getting the raw facts and un-manipulated data out of any situation, firsthand whenever possible.
  • If we have to get the data from other sources, we need to separate the real data from the noise, and make sure that we filter the data out from the source’s imagined reality.
  • Always ask a few more ‘Why’s’. Do not let others off the hook easily when they give you non-factual or questionable data so that people around you can develop the habit of always stating the facts and digging deeper into things.
  • It requires courage to confront the factual reality of any situation. The more uncomfortable you feel about something, the more you probably should pay attention to it. Because the discomfort might only be coming from some very large discrepancy between your imagined reality and the factual reality.  In fact under such circumstances, not only do you need to confront it, you need to confront it quick.    

Until next month, take a break from your imagined reality, and get real.



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