A Bridge to Nowhere
By: David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer

“I’ve crossed so many bridges only to find that there wasn’t a stream.” This quote came from my dad in one of his poignant writings some years ago. I was so impressed with the thought that I made a note to come back and write about it. Why would anyone cross a bridge where there isn’t a stream? Why would anyone build a bridge where there was nothing that needed crossing? Did they see a stream that wasn’t even there?  Were they really clueless about reality? I must admit there were and still are times in my life when I am clueless about reality. My guess is that I may have a lot of company in this area. This leaves me with two questions: why don’t we see reality and what can we do about it? Both questions are very easy to answer if we are willing to put in some effort.

We see reality through the filter of our own thoughts and emotions. Studies have shown that our mood can even change how steep we view a hill. When we are sad, the hill seems much steeper; when we are optimistic, the hill seems surmountable.

Research has also shown that our attention is drawn to objects that arouse emotions. Pleasant emotions as well as unpleasant, such as fear. When we are fearful, we are drawn to evidence to that supports our fears. Life coach Valorie Burton refers to this as catastrophizing. We hear one piece of news and build a catastrophe around that single bit of information. For example; my wife is late, and she is usually home by 5 pm. I hear that an accident occurred on a road near our home. Before long I am expecting a phone call that my wife has been in a terrible accident. But wait, I have no knowledge of my wife being in an accident. The only facts I know is that she isn’t home and there was an accident somewhere near my home and yet I am working on convincing myself that the most important person in the world to me is in trouble and may be seriously hurt.

So, what can we do? How can we regain reality?  The key to finding the true reality is to start by understanding that we don’t see things as they are, but rather how we think they are. In the example of my wife and the accident, it’s pretty easy, call her cell. In more complex situations it is critical that we have others help us determine the accuracy of our reality. Great leaders have developed their inner circle. Those trusted advisors who speak truth into their life so the leader can accurately assess the situation.

Now let’s get back to the stream where my dad was building bridges. What would his day have been like if he viewed the stream as a place to get a cool drink of water or maybe a place to do some fishing? He may have actually found a stream and then realized he didn’t need to cross it, rather just enjoy it.

Please join Marisa and me on The Next Page podcast as we take a deeper dive into this topic and look for ways we can be sure we are seeing the world around us clearly.

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