Our Colored Hats: How Our Beliefs Shape Our Reality
I came across this short paper by Steve Zaffron of the Vanto Group – of a story of a mining company in Peru where for generations, the workers were given hats of different colors according to their position in the company. Under a new leadership the colored hats were replaced, from one day to the next, by white hats. This seemingly insignificant act completely changed the dynamic of the employees – their creative expression increased remarkably simply by removing a sign of their status in the company. The hats, of course, signified an image of the employees in relationship with one another, but even more importantly, it signified an image that they held of themselves. By removing this visible external differentiator, they were able to re-create their internal self-critic, and recognize that they were the owners of their destiny.
We all wear a certain color hat. This hat is the image that we hold of ourselves. When we go about our days, we show up as the character wearing this hat, a character with an age, an educational background, and a number of stories that we believe, define who we are. We become so closely associated with this hat, that we call the hat the self, forgetting that it is the mind beneath the hat that is truly the Self. This association with the reflection of the self, is the reason why we tend to look at circumstances when trying to find the problems in our lives – when the circumstances do not look like what we wished for, we search around for the reasons. But the results are always a reflection of the inner workings of the mind, which are in turn translated into patterns and the very actions we take that created these results. We must look at what is going on inside of our heads, our thoughts, to find the cause.
It was James Allen who wrote that “men imagine that thought can be kept secret, but it cannot. It rapidly crystallizes into habit, and habit solidifies into circumstance.” The hats in the mining story are symbolic, but they impacted the thoughts each employee held, which determine the habits and actions that followed from these originating thoughts. Letting go of the hat was like pulling out the weeds, and opening the garden of their minds for brand new seeds to be planted. And that is why the patterns of our lives can only be changed when we change our thoughts; change happens when we replace our colored hat with a white, blank one.
How do we do that, how do we become impeccable about our thoughts so they become an alley in our life journey and not a wild beast with no mercy? Using the symbology of the construction hats, the first step in improving our thinking and our self-image, is to practice discernment. We must learn to discern the stories surrounding the facts, and the facts themselves. At times, that’s a more straight forward exercise.Giving an example of each. I grew up in a small apartment in Sao Paulo, in a fairly poor neighborhood, and was at home alone for the majority of my childhood. My parents worked very long hours and my sister and I were not very close. The facts are that I was alone the majority of my childhood because my parents worked long hours; the story I used to tell around that is that I was not deserving of love, or that everyone eventually abandons me. To separate the story from the facts means that I was able to allow a brand new opening for any new reality to emerge. I became the co-creator of my life, and not the victim of past circumstance by letting go of my childhood colored had that said “karen, you are not deserving.”
In some situations we must tap into a greater awareness of the natural laws that govern the Universe and the mental faculties we are all born with to help in our discernment techniques. A recurring example I see, where the mental faculties and natural laws apply, is in the domain of finance. We may look at our scarce resources when we check our savings account, and tell the story of how life is a struggle and how there is not enough in the world to go around. The fact is the universe is abundant, and the supply infinite – it is our consciousness that must expand, not the supply. Quoting Raymond Holliwell, “a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things he possesses, but in the consciousness of that which he has. Man possesses the whole world and all its wealth, yet is only able to enjoy what his consciousness permits him to discern.” In this case, we must let go of the colored hat named ‘scarcity’ with the white hat named ‘abundance.’
While a discernment exercise is critical, we must also practice impeccable thinking by creating a habit of switching our focus from what we would like to have less of, to what we would love to create. We are generative, creative beings – all of us. But we often create images, based on thoughts of fear, of resentment, of sadness. We focus exactly in that that we do not have, and somehow hope that we will manifest and bring about the opposite. No such a thing is possible. The universal law dictates that the plants we will harvest are the spring of the seeds we planted. The law is flawless. It was Huxley that once said that the only corner of the Universe we can change is our own minds. To harvest apples, stop planting orange seeds. Some exercises that I use, for myself and my clients, are the continuous focus on a big question we like to have answered. I have my clients extract these questions as they look to move in the direction of their dreams. I ask them, that if they notice their minds slowly traveling to the dark places of fear, lack, resentment, that they go back to this big question and turn their focus – the motivation comes from having already developed a vision, and a desire to conquer that vision. I often ask myself – if I were the Karen in my dream, what would I be doing right now, what would I be thinking about? That, without failing, brings my focus away from anything negative, and unproductive.
Meditation and focus exercises – like staring at a dot in a wall, or candle gazing, are amazing at helping us bring our attention back in line with a desired thought. As long as we let our thinking run wild, it will rule us, and we are left to collect the harvest with results we do not wish. Practicing focused thinking with these exercises also helps in our discernment abilities. In order to see things in a different angle, we must give ourselves the chance to stop and analyze the situation from various points-of-view. When we simply react, out of habit, we are no longer able to separate the truth from the stories and become enslaved by the colored hat we have placed on our heads. The mining story is an example of how the ruling thoughts, specially those that we carry about ourselves, are expressed in our every day actions dictating what we do. The hats were symbols of what the employees were capable of achieving, but truly, these hats were just objects that had absolutely nothing to do with their unique potentials.
Let go of your own colored hat if this hat no longer serves you by becoming the ruling master of your thoughts and an expert at discerning facts from stories, and the seed of truth from the reflective outcome.