As human beings, we are meaning making machines. We naturally interpret everything through our own subjective filter. Moreover, what we attend to is influenced by our beliefs, assumptions, and dominant needs. What I have discovered is the majority of people do this so automatically and unconsciously they never question their interpretations for accuracy or how well they serve them.

Take an average couple. They start to have a discussion. Then one particular word or phrase triggers one of the partners, and they become conflicted. The partner who perceived the comment as negative gave a certain meaning to the other partner's statement that felt painful in some way. I find so often the partner who made the comment did not intend it in the way the other person received it. What further complicates these situation is the partner who felt offended is typically reluctant to own the fact they interpreted it subjectively. It is the significance the one partner gave to the comment that created the conflict, not the actual comment.

The meaning you place determines the emotions you experience

Now let's look at this on an individual level. Maybe, you have started a new business venture. You start out with much excitement and enthusiasm. However, shortly into the process, you face inevitable challenges and setbacks. How you respond to these obstacles will be determined by how you are affected by them emotionally. The emotions you experience will be determined by the meaning you place on the events. The associations with the circumstances will be dictated by beliefs and assumptions developed from past experiences.

Beyond how situations affect you emotionally, here is a deeper reason why the meaning we place on events is so important on your journey to success. If you interpret the incident in a negative manner, it causes you stress and activates your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). This then has a negative impact on your brain - adrenaline and cortisol for extended periods become neurotoxins resulting in cell death, lack of new cells being created, and attacks on the primary memory center of the brain.

Defining a situation as a challenge stimulates cell growth and new neural connections

Contrastingly, when you see the situation in a positive light, such as a challenge that is going to grow you, teach you, and make you more successful in the long run, the brain develops new neural connections and stimulates cell growth. The result is a brain that becomes increasingly more effective enabling you to achieve a higher level of success.

Begin to develop a greater level of awareness of the meaning you are placing on circumstances in your life. Furthermore, start to challenge ones you are interpreting through a negative lens. This is not being overly optimistic but will actually impact you on a cellular level. It is hard core neuroscience, not being pollyanna. When it comes to developing a mindset that leads to success, this is one of the key steps that will help you achieve it.


John Hawkins Jr., M.S., L.M.H.C.

John has helped thousands of clients overcome the hidden internal blocks which had kept them from achieving their maximum potential. Furthermore, he has assisted them in gaining clarity of their true life purpose, identifying their gifts and talents, and developing lives of greater meaning and significance. 

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