We integrate new information every day that influences our perception of the world around us. However, the amount of information that we can devote our attention to at any one time is limited, which leads us to wonder:
"Just how much information are we missing?"
Each day, we awake with a new perception of reality - constructed from a compilation of our previous experiences - that filters the information from our environment. If you have integrated new insights - such as a new mental model, you may notice your attention shifting to different details or that you become aware of aspects of your surroundings that were not obvious before. This new information bridges gaps in our perception to provide a more accurate picture of reality.
Exposure to new information, ideas, people, places, ways of thinking, and experiences provides a wealth of novel information. In fact, being proactive in seeking new experiences is a highly valuable habit, which can be developed through a tolerance to being outside of your comfort zone. However, perhaps your lifestyle restricts you to engage in the same routine and surround yourself with the same people and environments.
The solution: Iterative information processing.
THE ITERATIVE PROCESSING APPROACH
Iterative information processing is a robust approach. It works by revisiting an experience or concept iteratively with a different focus each time. By shifting attention, we can absorb new information that was previously overlooked due to the limitations of our attention capacity. Concious approaches of iterative processing include:
- In-the-moment: Apply different perception filters to focus on alternate details (people, intangible attributes, etc.), or implement new approaches to a routine task.
- Self-reflection: Apply a different mental framework to evaluate your experience; repeat self-reflection many times until you see a trend or pattern that emerges.
Iterative information processing is a powerful tool to construct a more complete reality, which leads to better decisions and more fulfilling interactions, among others. By analyzing an experience through multiple frameworks, we can reveal the root cause of our reaction and overcome biases and assumptions. It's important to remember that the world is highly dynamic - even the same locations are evolving due to different people and culture, providing endless opportunity to acquire new information with the power of iteration. And most importantly, what you notice today creates your reality tomorrow!
- What framework am I filtering my experience through? People, activity, timescale, fine details vs. big picture, interests, values, emotions?
- Have you assessed or altered your metric for evaluating your experiences, i.e. money, free time, happiness, personal performance, learning, impact for others, efficiency, etc.?
- What about an outcome of event was unexpected or surprising? Why? There is likely something in this situation that you do not completely understand and should pay attention to.
- How can you do things differently or challenge conventional approaches? How did that impact the outcome? How do you naturally do things differently than other people?
- What speed are the people around you moving at? Are your end points and goals the same? What are their motivations?
- Are you focusing on people's words or their actions? What are they informing or communicating to you?
- What mindset or thinking style do the people around you have? Is it similar to yours? Are you surrounded by a diverse crowd? Are they communicating new details to you?
- How can you think differently to extract more information in your daily activities? Did you understand what the musician or author communicated to you through their song or book? What can you learn from their experience?
- How can you expand you exposure to new ways of thinking or new experiences?
- How are you engaging with the world around you, i.e. using all of your senses, actively doing, or watching and contemplating?
- How is your mood and stress level influencing your perception?