Just the facts, ma’am

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Growing up on the farm, my family was often featured in local newspapers.  Evidently it was considered quite a novelty to be a single mother with three daughters raising sheep in the midst of cattle country in Western Pennsylvania.  The articles would recount my mother’s decision to abandon city life to raise her children in the country. They would go on to describe how she started with a mere three sheep that over time swelled to 300, and the development of the cottage industry of wool and sheepskin items that we made and sold.  Each retelling had its own angle and an accompanying cheesy headline like “Sheep Farming Shear Delight for Mother and Daughters” and “The Wolfes in Sheep’s Clothing” (get it?). There was one thing they all had in common however; they always got something wrong.  It never failed that we were misquoted in some way, statistics were jumbled, or the article didn’t quite capture our true essence.

This morning my sister shared a link from a local newspaper about her and the new chapter of “Women Writing for (a) Change” she has established in Jacksonville, FL.  (You can read it here.) My favorite part of the article is at the bottom where the writer says, “A year ago, she took up the ukulele so she could play music with a sister who is a professional musician.”

Yep, that’s me!   A professional musician!

While I do indeed take credit for inspiring Jen to take up the ukulele, to say I am a professional musician is a stretch, since to date I’ve only had one full length concert that I did not charge admission for.  And while I have sung “Me and Bobby McGee” at the majority of my friends’ weddings, I was never paid for that.

Yet hundreds of people who will read this article will believe that somewhere in NYC lives a professional musician related to Jennifer Wolfe, and have a different perspective about her and me than they would have if the facts had been accurate.

This supports my point of view that “it’s all a story based on interpretations.”  While on one hand most of us would subscribe to the notion that you can’t believe everything you read, in practice, we don’t typically question things when they are presented to us as fact.  Why would anyone challenge that I am a professional musician, especially if they read it in a newspaper article?

We approach our own lives similarly… we hear, read, think, learn and see thousands of pieces of information a day, interpret them based on our historical experiences, make snap decisions about what they mean, and interact with them as though they are facts.  I’m sure my sister never told that journalist that I was a professional musician, but that’s what he heard, so for him it was true.  Not only did he believe it, but he wrote it down to be read by others as fact.

Sometimes, as in this case, it’s a no harm done situation.  (One could even argue that I’m showing up in the universe as a professional musician based on my intention for the future.) Yet the impact these thousands of mis-interpretations-believed-to-be-facts have on our lives is very powerful.  Does the fact that he/she didn’t text you after they said they would mean that they don’t like you?  Or, that they lost their phone?  Most of us would lean towards the “they don’t like me” scenario and tailor their actions based upon that assumption. Over time, with enough people not texting when they said they will, we make up stories about ourselves and how unlovable we are, which affects how we interact with the next person who promises to text.

Our natural inclination is to collect evidence to support what we believe to be true and to dismiss evidence that supports what we don’t want to believe is true. Awareness is the first step to transformation, and so I invite you to notice when you make decisions about situations based on what you believe to be true, and challenge those assumptions.  Ask yourself, “what am I basing these beliefs on?” and “what could be an alternate story?” I promise you that how your world shows up for you will change dramatically.

We’re always operating out of life from our belief systems.  But do your beliefs support you in creating the wealth, relationships, career and other results that you want?  Come to the next Abundance and Prosperity weekend workshop on March 14-16 to permanently alter your perspective on money, time, achieving your goals, and living life to the fullest.  For more information, email info@abundance-prosperity.com or go to www.abundance-prosperity.com.

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2 thoughts on “Just the facts, ma’am

  1. The cool kids call this “Confirmation Bias”. I agree with you 100% that this is a very important thing to pay attention to.

  2. Hey Liz, cousin Jamie here with my two cents. By the way, I saw you on Entertainment Tonight yesterday supposedly cavorting with Justin Bieber and a handful of other professional musicians.
    Your comment on the brain recognizing facts that support your preconceived belief is actually part of a methodology for increasing your reading comprehension. The other half of the equation is that your brain does take notice when something completely contradicts a preconceived idea of yours. Everything else tends to be glossed over. As I teach my kids, any time you read something, before you start, tell yourself what you think the article will be about, and read it looking for things to support or contradict your thesis. For example, you are to read an article on Syria. Tell yourself “I think there’s a bad guy named Assad who used chemical weapons on people and this one group, not sure who, is fighting another group, not sure who.” When you do this, your brain will fill in the blanks and you will retain ideas. Otherwise, you can read these articles and the information just seems to skip your brain as you think of other things while reading.
    You will also notice this in the best TV shows and fictional books. The author, or producer will have the characters or a story line do things that you can predict just before it happens, or, they will have the exact opposite happen. If this doesn’t occur, your brain wanders and you consider the book or show boring. Just some thoughts from the Arizona desert.

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