Our perception of the world is influenced by our past experiences, beliefs, and expectations. Hence, each person’s perception of reality is different. It is subjective. And if we want to change our perceptions, we need to change our core beliefs since they filter our understanding of what happens to us.
I coined the acronym INFORM to help us easily remember the steps on how to change our perception.
There are several core beliefs that lead us to thinking and behaving unhealthily. And so the first step is to IDENTIFY them. Do you tend to magnify the negative than the positive experiences in your life? Do you find yourself generalizing or catastrophizing things? Are you inclined to categorize the world as black or white and no shades of grey in between?
Whatever the case, it is important that we identify our habits of thinking and recognize that they affect our behaviour and our life in a non-productive way.
After identifying these thinking patterns and core beliefs, we now begin to NEUTRALIZE them. In what ways can we do that? One way is to debate the thought. For instance, if you begin to think that everything is ruined (catastrophizing) because of a seemingly insignificant event, you can challenge the thought and say, “how true is it that everything is finished because of this?”
Another way to neutralize is to ‘short-circuit’ the thought. When you realize you are beginning to engage in a negative thinking pattern, you can shout to yourself “stop!” and then refocus your attention on another thought that maybe unrelated to what you have been thinking.
The next step is to FAIL AND FORGIVE. Because our core beliefs and thought patterns have been deeply embedded throughout the years, expect that it will be a little difficult to shift or replace them with healthier beliefs. During these times, be ready to forgive yourself and resolve to create the new pattern.
And then, OVERLOAD. Make a comprehensive effort to overlay your beliefs and thinking with a new one. It is not enough that we get rid of our maladaptive thought patterns but we need to put in a new one which is more powerful and motivating than what is existing. For instance, when I am driving, I listen to motivational talks which saturate my mind even with the same principles that I’ve always been hearing again and again.
And then RELATE. Tell at least one or two persons about the process or the skill that you are trying to develop. And then make them your partners by asking them to tell you if you begin to show your old thinking habit. Through that, you gain motivation, realizing that you are not alone.
Lastly, take MOMENTS to pause and review your life. Make time for reflection where you look back and ask yourself how you are able to get into such a kind of thinking habit. Is it a trauma? Is it the prevailing belief and practice in the family? If so, does it still hold a truth in your present life now? Reflection, or metacognitive thinking, will help you go beyond the thoughts and change them.
The whole process of changing perception is iterative and not so much linear. It requires repeating the actions again and again until such time that we are able to assimilate the new way of beliefs and thinking and begin to be guided by them.