Do You Live In The Real World? Are You Sure?

Crescent EarthWe don’t live in the world we think we live in. The world of cars, trees, and electricity. Sure, we depend on that world a lot. But we don’t really live there.

No, the world we call home is another world — it’s a world of communication and meaning. Of thoughts, emotions, and purposes. Our reality is very different from the reality of a mountain or a drop of water. Those things take up space and interact with everything around them, obviously. But they don’t make decisions or get surprised. We do.

You could say that we do live in both worlds. But there is a difference. We can take or leave changes in the physical world (short of a mountain falling on us). But the meaning and communication world? That is our lifeblood, the basis of our very identity — the source of who we are. Pretty important, right?

So we ought to take it pretty seriously. We should understand it as clearly as we understand the physical one. We’re good at making things and controlling what happens in the physical world — at least on a scale smaller than a hurricane or an earthquake. But how do we do at managing the meaning-world that really matters to us?

Not too well, in fact. We’re surprisingly unconscious about what we actually depend on. Crazy, huh? We misunderstand each other all the time, we don’t always know why we react the way we do, and very few of us can communicate exactly what we want to, when we want. How can this be?

Well, some say it’s partly due to what our culture taught us as kids. But nobody’s placing blame, here. What really matters is how to get what’s best for ourselves and the people we care about. Think of it as just problem solving.

And the first problem to solve is how to gain some mastery over this meaning-world — the world we really depend on.

What does it take to gain this mastery? About the same level of dedication it takes to become an engineer, a doctor, or other physical-world specialists.

That’s fine, you say — but who is it that works with the meaning-world? Here are a few examples. Marketers kind of skate around it. Therapists go into it. So do poets, artists, and a few others.

But unfortunately, that’s about it. Most people don’t have the time or the interest to follow in those particular footsteps.

Then what can you do if you need the mastery but you don’t want to take all the time and trouble to specialize in it? Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a little help from time to time?

There is help available. And how do you choose who to ask for help? That’s a tough question.

Maybe you’ve heard the saying: Only a jeweler can tell a real jewel from a fake one. OK. What if you’re not a jeweler? Then you have to find somebody you can trust.

You have to look at several points. Briefly put, look for someone with experience who knows how and when to apply it (not just book learning) — someone who is motivated by your payment plus other factors (like, for instance, helping people and doing good work) — and someone who shares your basic values (otherwise, it just isn’t going to work).

And, of course, someone who takes the time and trouble to understand what you’re trying to achieve.

Next time: more on knowing who to ask for help.