RORY KELLY CONNOR: I began my strategic counsel and 'coaching' career almost 20 years ago in a position at a worldwide public relations’ firm. Lucky to train at what is still known as one of the best PR firms in the world, I was quickly immersed in the tactics and planning that made for successful PR campaigns. I worked long hours on multimillion-dollar accounts and loved learning the nuances of PR: positioning, preparedness, communications, and managing reputation and perception.
Despite what many people think, public relations is a fine art. You either 'get it' or you don’t. Unlike advertising, almost everything you do in PR is about building relationships with key audiences and thought leaders, and skilfully crafting and communicating information to those audiences through 'gatekeepers' who must be convinced about the value of your client’s messages. And that is all about using the right strategy to create a desired perception.
Thinking strategically is a learned skill, one that builds in a progressive manner over time as your analytical capabilities increase and expand. I remember sitting at account team meetings early in my career, swimming in awe and admiration as I witnessed senior staffers’ strategic minds operate at a skill level that was truly fantastic. And I wanted that. As I was challenged, given more and more tactical opportunities, promoted from level to level, and continued to learn, the doors in my analytical mind flew open, one by one, and new levels of strategic thinking were born. I evolved into an expert in strategy, earning millions for my company and generating amazing results for my clients. Ultimately, I became a master at the art of perception.
The Art of Perception
"It is one of the commonest of mistakes to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive." ~ C. W. Leadbeater
In my coaching work, I repeatedly see that the most significant obstacles to success within clients are the limiting beliefs they have picked up along the way and hold on to for dear life. These beliefs come in all shapes and sizes, flavours and colours. They are the result of strategic PR machines that exist in our families, our religions, our societies, and our governments. They have been communicated to us to tell us how to think, what to think, what is right, what is wrong, what is good, what is bad, how to fit in, how to be. They are the PR product of people with an agenda. Whether positive or negative, supportive or destructive, they are powerful, and we perceive them to be completely true, even when they are not.
I remember years ago having a spirited debate with a friend about truth versus perception. He argued that perception was so often inaccurate, the filter made of our limiting beliefs through which we view everything. Therefore, he felt perception should be regarded with skepticism because it filters truth, choosing what to see and what not to see. I acceded that he was correct. He was also incorrect.
From my strategic PR perspective, I knew that perception was also truth. If people perceive a thing to be true, even when it is false or only half-truth, or they have no hard evidence that it’s truth, it is still their truth. That makes it real. And you have to deal with it as if it is real. For example, millions around the world believe that God exists. They believe because the historical PR machines of their families and religions have taught them it is true. In fact, most of these people have never met God and have no first-hand empirical evidence that God exists. Nevertheless, they believe in God. And that makes God very real, even if only as an idea. For most of the world, this belief and any related teachings about God picked up through a lifetime, become a filter through which every other thing is perceived.
'Existence is awareness without boundaries. Perception is awareness with boundaries.' ~ Deepak Chopra
Recently, I was in discussion with a client about career opportunities. The client was adamant that possibilities were only available in one direction. Her perception of the marketplace was limited by the boundaries of her truth – her current knowledge of the world. I challenged her perception. Remembering my PR training days and my hunger for the doors in my mind to fly open so I would learn to think more and more strategically at higher levels, I told her, "You don’t know what you don’t know. And there is so much you don’t know." There is so much we all don’t know.
I challenge you to engage in a new paradigm of perception – the art of conscious perception. I encourage you to stop, look and listen whenever you hit a wall or a have a negative thought. Notice consciously the belief underneath of that thought. Not only will you learn to question the beliefs through which you filter and judge every thought, idea or experience in your life, you will also start to see how these beliefs limit you in what you believe is possible and your ability to experience happiness.
Part of becoming a master at the art of conscious perception is to search for the truth. Realize that anyone, anywhere with an agenda is using the power of PR to convince you of their message, to motivate you to feel something, buy something, behave in a certain way. By employing the art of conscious perception, you will be able to better determine whether they are working to create an outcome that is good for you and the world, or only good for them.
Being aware of the boundaries of our current perception allows us to remove those boundaries. Unhampered by the baggage of somebody else’s PR agenda, we are able to let go of beliefs that don’t serve us and our happiness. Instead, we learn to swim in a perspective that lets the doors of our mind fly open with possibilities, an awareness without boundaries where anything is possible.