Category Archives: Perception

Black and White Thinking in a Full Color World

Black and White Thinking

Everything may not be as it seems to people who live in a black and white, all good or all bad world. Remember when television was black and white and all of the imagery and perception supported a black and white view of life. It was a simple time when everything was predictable and life was very linear. People believed in God, went to church, children prayed in school, people kept their word, couples stayed together when they got married, and everything fit into a nice neat box.

It was a time when everyone seemed to know where to sit on the bus. Then, about the time color TV came along, it became difficult to visualize life in the same way anymore. To adjust many movie makers began to colorize the old black and white movies and paint a new picture of the old black and white world. However, as much as the movies were colorized, the world was no longer black and white, the music began to change the songs that people sang, the length of their hair, where they sat on the bus, and the age of color brought a different way that many people thought about marriage, values, and even their spiritual lives.

What happened to the black and white world that was so safe and predictable? The world of color brought life out of the black and white box in the living room and it changed the imagery and the hues of how the world looked. Therefore it was hard to to see a world in full color, the vivid expressions, and all that came with it while people could only see life inside a black and white TV. I wonder about how people who only see the world in black and white world are now managing in a HD world with a 1950’s black and white analog TV.

The resolution of the world and the brilliance of the imagery is hard to look on when the eyes are accustomed to I Love Lucy, Bob Hope, and John Wayne. I wonder how well a black and white culture is managing the abstract picture of the 21st Century in full color, where values are decided on demand in a pay per-view network delivered wherever people can get a signal. How is it possible to remain a Penguin and view life through a high density lens without feeling confused by what the range of color has revealed about the world that we did not have to view on a black and white screen? People are feeling a broad range of emotions because they are seeing different views of life.  The world is no longer black and white, nor is it all abstract color.  It is a very challenging time for all of us to find answers and a view of the world that will work.


Creative Thinking: Living Outside the Box

When you live in a box, think in a box, it is hard to see anything outside the box.  The tendency that people have who think in a box is to reject anything that will not fit in their box, criticize it and throw it away.  Creative thinking is a hallmark of intelligence and problem solving.  A problem presents in life when the focus is upon compliance, pathology, and what is wrong.  What results is that is that all energy focuses upon defending a rationale for what is wrong and virtually what will not fit in the box.  Linear thinkers tend to think on a straight line, not being able to see anything that is not on the straight line.  People call it concrete thinking, close mindedness, black and white thinking, but something to think about is that thinking in a box can be a symptom of someone who needs to control life in certain definable terms to rid themselves of the anxiety that occurs when something does not fit in the box.  Learning to give up control of the way reality is constructed in certain definable terms is a step in developing an ability to think creatively about problems. Thinking outside the box is not unfaithfulness to an ideology; it is being faithful to your own capability to think about creative solutions.  The choice that we have is to live in a box– or not, to use your innate intelligence, to focus upon your strengths in ways to bring a positive outcome.

Destination: Where the Road is Going

Where is the Road Leading?

Uncertainty about what is ahead makes it hard to focus upon where the road is at today. Looking back at where the journey has been and remembering the safety found in memories of how things were comfortable, manageable, and predictable; there is a desire to go back to a place built in the castle of the mind.  Living in the memory of the past and feeling the uncertainty of the present leaves fear of where the road is going and what will be there when I arrive. A destination is too much to fathom, to fearful to embrace; a place that having no certainty and no familiar faces.  Looking forward to undefined potential reality which can be experienced the call of the destination is understood.  Feeling anxiety in the present experience controlled by idealism about the past holds potential captive bringing ambivalence feeding the hesitation to move forward and embrace the destination: where the road is going.

Finding Balance Between Perception and Expectations

The image of Seattle being refracted through m...Who’s Glasses Are You Looking Through?

Is it really reasonable to believe that you can make other people happy by always doing what’s expected, acquiescing to the wishes of others to live in their blessing?  In reality you can never make someone else happy, they may be happy that you gave them what they were wishing for, but it does not necessarily make them happy. Much of the problem with viewing life from this perspective is fueled by a low sense of self and how worth, value, and happiness comes in life. The question that is at the core of the issue is: how does a person get to the point of not feeling that if one does not live up to the “expectation” of others, that acceptance, love, and approval will not be experienced?

Is There a Pattern of Response Connected to the Past?

While there are biological factors of personality and behavior, much of what’s beneath response is grounded in performance based thinking-behavior patterns established at a very early age.  The result is an experience characterized by falsely associating rewards for behaviors with value as a person.  A common response is a skewed sense of identity dependent upon reward attached to performance.  Often, when performance based behavior is thought of by some, it is linked with a negative connotation.  Performance and reward are not necessarily bad components when join together.  Human behavior is understood in terms of motivation and goal.  In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need, the principles of felt need and motivation for behaviors are illustrated in the basic way that individual’s act out behavior. The response is connected to how needs-drives are internalized, organized, and acted out. At the basic level, a common thread of response is present that supports the function of a healthy, well expressed life, but the response takes on a different pattern based upon signals from the environmental conditions, and perceived outcomes. Another point of consideration is that, humans are not simply deterministic in responses, but free to demonstrate dynamic interaction in response to what is occurring and has happened over the course of life. Knowing why behavior occurs may be more important to living effectively than identifying or classifying behaviors as good or bad. The truth is that everything that we are doing and how we respond is a continuing flow of experiences, information received, and responses that we organize in the unique way that integrates the information of life in our experience.

Is it Wrong to Respond as You do to Life?

Some individuals describe life in terms of black and white—good and bad.  That is characteristic of a personality disorder that is described as Borderline Personalityand indicates a behavior that presents with emotional dis-regulation response to stress.  The personality illustration points to a reality experienced when we possess a limited view of life that describes everything in terms of good and bad, black and white. When the experiences in life do not fit linear terms of good and bad—stupid and smart, there is a difficulty in managing information that does not fit in the box, which colors outside the lines, and is not really understood.  Looking at what people do and why in terms of what is effective and works and what do not work and is ineffective will provide a way of connecting behaviors with solutions that work.  In response to the many questions that are within this, there is a place for good and bad, mores, values, and spiritual implications.  However, simply describing the moral quality or value principle of what is done, will not help anyone: it more likely than not– will reinforce the same negative, self-destructive patterns of thinking and behaving. Therefore, understanding why behavior, resulting in performance that is motivated by a need for approval, characterizes how individuals respond to expectations and will provide more substantive answers that describing in terms of good and bad—right and wrong.

Healthy or Unhealthy Expectations?

A good question to ask about what is healthy and unhealthy is to look at the impact of actions in terms of what effect is elicited that promotes a specific behavior. An illustration about perspective and the effects of a point of view, internalized is within how Christians generally respond to behavior problems with guilt or conviction. I have a personal axiom that says, “guilt” drives us away from God—to hide as they did in the Garden of Eden and ”conviction” drives us toward God—as Isaiah’s vision of God (Isaiah  6).  There is a distinct difference in how response is given to guilt and how response is given to an understood cognitive, spiritual truth.  One produces neurotic behavior with its own distinct pathology and another with the response that frees choices and produces intentional responses.  Consideration about what is healthy behavior may be best, framed in terms of motivation and what effect is produced.  For example, a well-founded effort leads someone to let another know that they are a drunk and that they need to change.  A good question to pose is: who feels better after the exchange, the one who identified the behavior or the “drunk “who heard those words describing behavior flavored with a character assessment?  Understanding behaviors that identifies the action and misses the person has the missing component– hope of efficacy.

The epilogue is this: if the guilt of not pleasing others is placing expectation on you remember, “Healthy people with good self-worth and identity have a solid foundation from which to operate. They enjoy love and approval and success, but do not crumble without it. Their good feelings come from the inside, not from the external people and things which surround them” (Smith A.W.).

Adjust Your Focus So You Can See Clearly

Out of Focus Picture

One of the great difficulties that leaders experience is the inability to change when it is necessary to stay vital and continue to experience success. One leadership principle that John Maxwell teaches in The Twenty One Laws of Leadership is that an organization cannot grow higher than the level of leadership at the top. He calls this the leadership lid. Does it seem like your organization is stuck; like someone has put a lid on the top and things have plateaued? It may be that the organization has grown as high as it can go because of the level of leadership it has. One of the reasons that organizations do not grow is because the leader has not been growing and as a result, both the leader and the organization are stuck in a complacent rut of ineffectiveness: everything is out of focus. Staying focused is difficult when you aim is off. One way to stay on track is by keeping a narrow focus. “…pressing towards the mark…” narrowing the focus to define what will be done. It is easy to look around and find someone to blame when things are not going well, but maybe the place to look is in the mirror and realize that when an organization is having difficulty that the answer may be that it is a leadership problem. One of the reasons we fall of track, so often, is that distractions, circumstances, and life change the center of our everyday world. The result is that organizations and leadership gets out of focus.

If there is one thing that will help leaders to continue to be successful, what would that be? People may have many different opinions, but the one defining truth is that leaders must continue to learn, grow, and develop their selves to maintain vitality. Learning to adapt to change is a requisite for leading in today’s leader. Talent Management Perspectives reports that, “Against the backdrop of an ever-changing global business environment and unstable economic conditions, it’s no longer sufficient for leaders to embrace the status-quo …”The organization has to lead change, rapid change. The environment is changing — someone’s inventing something before you expect it or something is collapsing in front of your eyes …’”It’s becoming much more important to deal with change and creativity and innovation and speed and nimbleness,” she said. “Those are part of producing the results; you have to pay attention to those factors”’ ( It may be that leaders have a lot of information at their disposal, but knowing how to use the information and where to apply change in style, strategy, and innovation will define how leadership will be applied in the context of change.

Personal growth and development are indications of a leaders potential for success. The moment you stop growing, you stop leading. All leaders are learners because there is no growth without change and there is no change without being flexible. When a leader stops growing, he/she becomes inflexible. Effectiveness can be measured in terms of predispositions and attitudes toward having never done it that way before. If the attitude is maintained that, “I want to lead the way I used to lead, the way I’ve always led” is maintained, then yesterdays methods will only yield results in yesterday’s constructs. The attitudes and skills that brought you to this point in your leadership are not going to take you to the future. New problems require new solutions. New situations require new attitudes. New difficulties and new opportunities require new skills and new attitudes. What brought you this far and made you a success – that’s why success creates inability to manage new ideas and challenges, because the rules are forever changing.

The root behind resistance to change is fear. There are times when fear paralyzes forward movement: I don’t want to change because I’m afraid of loss–I’ve done it this way and I feel comfortable with it. Therefore what am I going to lose if I do ministry in a new way? The root is the fear of change. Whenever you find yourself resisting a new way of doing something, or defending the status quo or striving simply to repeat the past because it worked last, it may be that there is a danger of terminal failure. What’s the key to overcoming this trap in leadership? The antithesis is to never stop developing. Never stop developing your skills, your character, your perspective, your vision, your heart, and what you bring to your leadership.

Skill brings success. You may be dedicated to what you are doing, but if development of the necessary skills is not occurring, the tools you have may not fit a new situation. A farming analogy might be: you can’t use a corn harvester on a wheat field, a cotton picker in an apple orchard. The tools that are used have to match the context, culture, organization, people that you are working within. Consequently, if learning stops then the axiom, that people tend to rise to their level of incompetence and then they get stuck there, kicks in and drives what will happen.