Is all of reality simply perception?

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a persistent one. – Albert Einstein (attributed)

Originally this article was going to be titled, “life is what you make it”. However, I decided to phrase this as a question because I am unsure if life really is what you make it.

I’d like to think it is…

I’ve witnessed the power of positive thinking first hand. I have seen how labels separate and draw people together. I have seen how long held beliefs destroy people and build them up.  And I have seen how ideas of right and wrong influence people’s decisions.

If everyone had the same concept of reality would society be better off or worse off?

Sometimes I feel like we live in a society that challenges every belief that I believe is good and true because they don’t believe it to be true, and lets slide any idea of mine that is wrong and immoral for the sake of being accepting.

Is there a gold standard of reality or is it all just perception?

For instance, you probably think Hawaii is a great place. A place you would love to vacation in and probably even live in if you could afford it. You may or may not have been there yet but I am sure you have a certain perception of it.

I haven’t been there but I perceive it to be a nice place from what I hear. That was until the other day…

My friend has lived there for 4 years and all the initial excitement of living there has certainly worn off. He is ready to move away from paradise. Why? Because its not his perceived idea of paradise anymore, possibly never was. In fact, he now refers to living there as a tropical depression. Ouch!

What gives? His perceptions changed. Did Hawaii change? Certainly not, at least not that much in 4 short years. So which is it? What really is the reality of the situation?

In my humble opinion I think his first perception and his current perception are not totally based on reality. They are only his compiled input and experience of living there.

Even if you just look at facts and figures to make a very “reality based” decision, it is still a perception. Like statistics it can be twisted and turned to support any view.

To keep us based in reality as much as possible we must continually be aware of the lens we look through to see the world…

And we must be aware of other people’s lenses too. This will help us make better decisions all around.

To do this we must slow down and try to approach the situation at hand from different angles. One angle only shows a very one dimensional view. Three angles starts to give you a three dimensional view. And only by looking all around an object can we get a full 3D view.

To answer my own question I believe I must say that it is both yes and no.

Yes, because no matter what we do we still view reality through our own lens, and therefore we have a perception of reality that is not totally true.

No, because reality really is reality. It is not perception. Perception is part of reality but it is not all of it. We can’t pretend to have a total grasp on reality, but if we try hard we can be pretty darn sure of quite a few things.

The object at hand will become clearer and clearer as we look around it more. We can have an intimate knowledge of it, but never a full understanding of it.

What’s the point in all this?

Simply to get us thinking and to be a reminder that the lenses we are wearing will determine the reality that we see.

Everything you can imagine is real. – Pablo Picasso

15 thoughts on “Is all of reality simply perception?”

  1. Hi Jeremy – Isn’t that the truth? -“the lenses we are wearing will determine the reality that we see.” With regard to other peoples lenses, I try to be careful and “consider the source”, as pessimistic people tend to be negative.

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..NBOTW Offers A Free EBook

  2. You are absolutely right, reality is perception.

    I was talking to my friend recently regarding computer and internet security and he said theres no such thing as security but there are things you can do to maximize it.

    I mean you can find these examples everywhere, with products and services.

    tom’s last blog post..Marriage should be treated like business

  3. Jeremy

    Wow, this post has a very philosophical feel to it! I like your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ approach to the question.

    On one hand we live in a ‘real’, physical world where, for sure, we have different perceptions of reality. Part of us is also (I believe) outside time and space where ‘reality’ and ‘illusion’ have no meaning.

    Seems to me that as a species we waste massive amounts of time and energy (even kill each other) trying to convince each other that our ‘truth’, or perception of reality, is the right one. In fact, they are both right .. just different.


    Ian Peatey’s last blog post..Lament for my world

  4. I like your example with moving to Hawaii because I’ve seen just this so many times in expatriates, and I fear it myself now as I prepare myself to become an expatriate once again. It’s extremely easy to fool yourself when you really want to and we DO have to keep asking ourselves if what we are seeing really is plausible and how we do that usually is by gauging what other people see.

    It’s like that classic NLP example where we’re all schizophrenics and the only thing that separates us from the people in institutions is the fact that we see that our illusions/delusions are not shared with others and therefore filter them out.

    Emma’s last blog post..One week electricity experiment

  5. Jeremy:

    I’m glad you changed your post title. I would say that “life is what you make it” can equally be communicated as “life is how you see it.”

    Perception is often mistakenly defined in visual terms. I know you were using “the lenses we are wearing” in a metaphorical sense, however, equating perception with visual senses is part of the problem with those of us with “sight.”

    Perhaps we can take this metaphor further: If a man were born blind at birth, how would they describe “perception?”

    A person born blind, for example, would not have any real understanding of “darkness” because they have not seen the light; their conception of beauty would be based very little (or not at all) upon physical appearances; and they would arguably have a greater understanding of reality because there would be no visual distractions defining their perception.

    Personally speaking, I believe my “reality” can be better “seen” in the absence of physical world appearances. When I close my eyes, I am in my own reality…

    “I can see, and that is why I can be happy, in what you call the dark, but which to me is golden. I can see a God-made world, not a man-made world.” ~ Helen Keller

  6. You might say that the reality around us is irrelevant, and that we can work from the vision we have in our minds. If we feel that everyone around us is there because we allow and observe them to be there, then we are controlling their presence. I’d say we can go very far in re-framing our environment into one that we see ourselves controlling, up to the point that we feel we are pushing too hard against the reality we still assume is there. I would say that you could go for a long period of time while maintaining a perception that all around you is controllable. It might be an advantageous way to go.

    Armen Shirvanian’s last blog post..Quote Analysis 2

  7. Perception is just another way of giving meaning to something. This reminds me of a quote by T. Harv Eker “Nothing has meaning except for the meaning you give it.”

    For many things in life, there’s no absolute truth in it, except for what you believe to be the truth. Even a scientific discovery is not the absolute truth. It is only an assumption taken to be the truth until proven wrong.



    Mark Foo’s last blog post..Are You Creating Enough Value To Remain Indispensable In This Tough Economic Time?

  8. reminds me a movie…. ahh! Matrix 😉
    “We don’t see the things the way they are. We see things the way WE are.”
    – Talmund
    Here is how i practice this – i adopted radio dial metaphor. When i feel i am on the wrong wave i try to tune my personal “radio dial” to another, better wave. Tune in, get motivated, produce more results with less energy 😉

    Alik Levin |’s last blog post..Consultant Deceive The Heavens To Cross The Ocean. And Wins.

  9. Life is definitely what you make out of it. There is no universal code for what is good and bad. We, as human beings are so different from each other, but at the same time we are all the same. We all have our own senses, and opinions. It’s the same reason that one person might love living in New York, and another person prefers rural Arkansas.

  10. Is this like, “The grass is always greener?” We often think a new place will offer things the old place didn’t, or perceive it as such. However, unless we have changed, a new location, idea, or lifestyle won’t make a difference.

    LisaNewton’s last blog post..Sea gulls in Motion

  11. Hi all,

    It has been interesting to read everyone’s comments. It has been even more interesting to think about how each comment is shaded by our own perceptions. It seems we all have a fundamental understanding of how our own “realities” differ from others. Yet, how can we use this information for our own, and others, benefit? Food for future thought…


  12. Reality is totally a matter of perception. I used to work in adventure tourism. Visitors would find the abseiling trips we took them on terrifying as they felt they were dangerous. But the reality was that the safety standards and training of the staff was so thorough that it would be far more dangerous crossing the road.

    To take it a stage further: the human body is made up of far more empty space than matter but we perceive it as a solid mass. All of reality is an illusion!

    Julian’s last blog post..How To Sleep Better

  13. I heard this great story from a girl at the Forum. During one of the breaks she called her mom and said “Mom, I forgive you for trying to kill me when I was a child.” Her mother was stunned, wondering what in the world she was talking about. The girl responded “I remember when I was about six years old. I was jumping on the bed and you were furious. You grapped me, hit me and choked me.” Her mom couldn’t believe what she was hearing. The two had always had a strained relationship, but she never really understood why until that moment. Through tears the mother explained “Sweetheart, you were jumping on the bed and you had a hard candy in your mouth. You swallowed it and were choking. I wasn’t choking you, I was trying to save you.”

    electronic cigarette’s last blog post..Sen. Lautenberg wants to snuff out electronic cigarettes

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