Most people want to improve their lives, even those who rate themselves as “highly satisfied” with their relationships, finances, and well-being. It’s an inborn human impulse to strain against “good” in the pursuit of “better.” You likely recognize this impulse in yourself, and those you live and work with.
But for many of us, improvement is easier said than done. In spite of what seem to be good intentions, progress tends to be slower than we’d like. And even when we do make progress, it is often difficult to sustain. So why is change so difficult? In my experience, it has to do with the fact that we all have “Blind Spots” in our “Reality Maps.”
What Are Reality Maps and Blind Spots?
Reality Maps are blueprints that reflect the way we have thought about and constructed our lives; they also inform the way we continue to think about and build our worldview. Blind Spots are inaccuracies in our Reality Maps. When explored and discovered, they reveal differences between how we see the world and how the world actually is. A blind spot is an area where we don’t know what we don’t know, and they tend to create challenges in how we engage with the world, especially in how we relate to those around us.
The good news is that we can open up our Reality Maps, spread them out before our eyes, and work on making them as accurate and as “Blind Spot-free” as possible. The key is to turn our unconscious beliefs and assumptions into conscious decisions and behaviors.
There is nothing inherently wrong with having Reality Maps. In fact, they are necessary because they allow us to mark our way, track our progress, and function in the world. But problems arise when we mistake our maps for the territory.
It is human nature to assume that our Reality Maps are true and accurate, and we constantly mistake them for reality itself. The Blind Spots they contain can function like a set of tinted glasses we’ve forgotten we’re wearing until we need to take them off. Sure, those tinted lenses make everything look pretty and guard our eyes—but sometimes in order to grow or make a long overdue change, we need to do the exact opposite of what our eye doctors told us. Once in a while, when we know something “isn’t quite working,” we have to whip off those shades and stare directly into the glare. Seeing the world more directly won’t blind us: It will illuminate what we have been avoiding or missing. Our willingness to open our eyes and see directly what is there will “heal” our Blind Spots!
Reality Maps are not passive repositories of information, but are active processing centers of new, continuously incoming information. As we receive new data, it is filtered into our Reality Maps based on what’s already there—Blind Spots and all.
In many ways, Reality Maps provide a blueprint of life based on our experience—they are cognitive structures that not only reflect what we think, but also represent everything about our perceived reality. They encompass our experience of the physical realm, our visceral or emotional expectations, and our values.
Our Reality Maps allow us to move through the world believing we are “right” or “mostly right.” Blind Spots are the places where our mental models break down without our realizing it. They are areas in which your personal Reality Map differs from actual reality. Don’t beat yourself up for having Blind Spots—we all have them, and most are the result of the unavoidable limits of human perspective.
To get an idea of how starkly different Reality Maps can be, think about politics and politicians. Think of your most recent or upcoming national election. Think of all of those people who support the candidate or policies you are against. How is it that so many people support a person and policies that seem so absolutely untenable to you? Who are these people and how can so many of them be so off? Now recognize that these people ask the very same questions of you and your candidate.
As we work with Reality Maps and Blind Spots, recognize that there are billions of people on the planet, and each can only see through their perspective. You can only see through your perspective, and your Reality Maps are incomplete. They cannot reflect the entirety of the world as it actually is. Recognize that there will always be another way to see things—that your experience of the world is inherently subjective—and you will have taken the first step towards radical clarity.
For my clients, every challenge that arises has its roots in the Blind Spots inherent in their Reality Maps. In every case, when my clients examine the accuracy of their Reality Maps and uncover their Blind Spots, profound change begins to occur. Things begin to shift. Obstacles fall away. Creative opportunities appear. When you take a thorough look at your life—when you face your Reality Maps and Blind Spots head on—transformation is inevitable. Imagination and creativity awaken. Your life naturally responds.
This process works best when you open yourself up to different ways of seeing things. Examine the areas of your life that scare you the most. Permit yourself to be vulnerable in the pursuit of transformation. This process isn’t trivial; it is the Heart of bravery. It takes tremendous courage to scrutinize yourself at this level, and to see yourself as someone who can change and grow.
Excerpt from “The Clarity Compass: A Tool to See Clearly in Everything That You Do” by Dr. Brit Poulson (January 17, 2017).
Dr. Brit Poulson is the creator of The Clarity Compass and founder of Clarity Compass Consulting, a leadership consulting firm that specializes in transformative executive coaching and leadership development programs. In his new book, The Clarity Compass: A Tool to See Clearly in Everything That You Do (January 17, 2017), he provides the tools to help find the kind of radical clarity needed to respond creatively in any situation. Dr. Poulson holds a Ph.D. in psychodynamics, Jungian and group psychology. His Website is http://clarity-compass.com/