Which Of These Three "Perception Anchors" Directs Your Life?


Perception and action go hand-in-hand in determining our life experience.

There are three perceptual frames of reference we use to guide our actions day after day. Think of them as the areas where you put most of your attention (or as the questions you ask of the world around you).Those frames influence the kinds of outcomes we see in our lives. In a perfect world we’re able to shift effortlessly from one into the other, blending between the frames without second thought, but many of us get stuck thinking and acting from one frame. This leads to a sense of rigidity in our lives, and it keeps us from being as effective or as fulfilled as we could be in the world.

Which one is most familiar to you?

The “What Isn’t” Frame

This frame is admittedly a pretty frustrating place to be. It’s a place characterized by lack or scarcity.

Your focus here is on your unmet needs: food, water, connection, income, and so on. You see the gaps between things rather than the things themselves. Make no mistake: this can be really useful. It has a sense of biological primacy because it meets the foundational organismic needs of survival (a lack of food leads to directed action to ease hunger, right?). It mobilizes and motivates your behavior on a deep level, so it’s a frame that can be useful for breaking out of frustrating ruts.

However, it’s a bit reactive as well. What tends to happen though is that people will become stuck in this frame of reference, never satisfied, always putting their attention toward what they’re missing. If you live your life persistently using this frame of reference, you’re in for a long, arduous road.

The “What Is” Frame

This frame of reference has its center of gravity in the here and now experience. It’s existential in a way.

Your attention focuses on the ideas of “now and how,” asking what is happening now and how is it taking place? It can be a soothing place to spend time, one that many people are unfamiliar with. There’s a beautiful blending with the rest of the world that takes place in this frame of reference where you feel very connected and present. It’s also a useful way to find clarity over what’s really going on in your life.

However, this frame has its shortcomings as well. It’s very “being” oriented, and as such it doesn’t lead to much directed progress. It is firmly rooted in the present, often to the detriment of the future.

The “What Could Be” Frame

This frame of reference is the frame of possibility. It’s the source of creative and generative action.

It’s the frame you find yourself in when envisioning what the future could be like. When you’re operating from this frame of reference, you’re creating new worlds. Progress emerges from this frame.

And yet spending too much time here can leave you untethered, feeling a bit rootless. It can lead you to sacrifice vital needs too (just think of the stereotypical entrepreneur at a start up skipping meals and sleeping under a desk). As with the other frames this is a place we want to be able to visit AND know when to leave.

Which Frame Is Most Familiar?

Now that you have a bit of understanding of the perceptual frames of reference, where do you spend the bulk of your time? Which is the most familiar to you?

The beautiful thing about awareness work is that it gives you a choice. Once you know where you spend your time, you’re able to shift your attention. You’re able to ask new questions and take new actions, creating very different outcomes for yourself.

Leave a comment below with one big insight you take away from this idea or one new action you’re going to take as a result.

Chandler StevensComment