There are three layers of perception:

  1. The real objective world. Absolute reality that we don't actually perceive objectively,
  2. Our gut reaction.Conditioned responses. Subconscious interpretations.
  3. Our active meaning making through storytelling. What we remember and feel.

Perceiving the physical manifestation - the bricks stone mortar - of cities do not in itself make meaning. I can see, smell and touch Dublin.

It is only by telling stories about a place that we begin to imbue it with meaning. Places we grew up in. Places we have spiritual experiences in. Unlike James Joyce, when I die, Dublin will not be written in my heart. Because it is less meaningful for me as a brief visitor.

Similarly, when we encounter a situation in life, the facts of the situation are just are. (3)

For example: some stranger cut us off in traffic.

We may immediately get annoyed, reactively. (2)

We make it deeply meaningful when we start to tell stories around what happened: how dare they be so rude, what an arsehole, how could they get away with this, why is everyone out to get me! (1)

How can we design experiences to encourage the desired storytelling? Within ourselves in to improve our own resilience, and for the users of our creations to increase effectiveness and wellbeing.

What stories do you tell yourself?