Perception Before Action

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In our past few blogs, we addressed the importance of getting grounded in purpose and presence as core aspects of showing up intentionally. The premise is that being intentional increases your chances of creating the impact you wantmore so than showing up ‘accidentally’ or without much attention or thought. 

Here, we explore a third aspect of being intentional: perception. This is about using our senses to become more aware of something or someone…for better understanding and interpretation of what we perceived…so that we can then be or do something that results in impact. 

Consider insights that can be gained from: 

  • THE PHYSICAL BODY: We use our senses such as sight, hearing, and so on to perceive others and our circumstances. This informs what happens next…how we feel. 
  • THE EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE: Aaron Beck, one of the founding fathers of cognitive behavioral therapy, said “emotion follows perception” that is, the way we feel about a situation is a result of how we perceive it. When we are more perceptive, our emotions that follow better inform what actions we might take. Alternatively, when “perception follows emotion,” we tend to narrow our field of information, over-focus on past experiences, and block what is transpiring in front of us. Click here for a short story that explains this a little more if you like. 
  • THE CONCEPTUAL DOMAIN: After we perceive and then experience our emotions, we can get a little more analytical and intellectual. We might consider what we want others to know about us, how we wish to be perceived. This is where we shift from being present to having presence and creating impact through how we show up. This could include conjuring up an image that depicts our current self-identity (e.g., you want people to know you’re smart and strategic) and/or strengthening a more aspirational identity (e.g., you want to become kinder and more compassionate, and be known for that too). 

Breaking perception down into these aspects we each possess—physical, emotional, and conceptual—infers a potential order for the insights that perception can offer. Physical and emotional experiences—which can happen in a flash—better inform our thoughts and behavior. As a result, we can take more intentional action to create the leadership impact we want. 

Next week, we address a fourth aspect of intentionality where you can bring purpose, presence, and perception into action through preparation. 

This Week: Identify an interaction you’ll be having and: 1) consider what will help you be more perceptive in that; 2) remember to notice any feelings that result; and 3) capture a few words about what perception you now want to create with others through that interaction. Afterward, look back and reflect on the actual outcomes. What might you do differently next in your next interaction? 

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