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Honesty, truth and frame of reference

It is revealing that one of the most sought after attributes in a leader and a friend is honesty and truth. These elements build trust and the best culture.

You would like to think that we all should be honest and tell the truth. But if we explore honesty and truth at more depth, it is not so simple.

Why would I say this, and how do we determine what is truth?

If we look backwards and revisit what happened in our past, it is not all that accurate. Our brains fill in some details and thus, truth from our memory is flawed.

In fact, our expectations of positive or negative are critically intertwined into our assessment of these experiences (our truths).

In Dan Ariely’s book, "Predictably Irrational," he shares an experiment involving Joshua Bell, a world-class violinist, who played his $3.5 million Stradivarius violin in a Washington DC subway tunnel for tips. Three nights before, he played in a sold out concert hall in Boston, where the seats sold for at least $100 apiece.

The music was just as beautiful and the opportunity to have a private concert existed.
The result? Of the 1,097 people heard him playing, 27 left a tip in his open violin case, and only seven stopped to listen.  He ended with only $32 in tips.

Why would people pay $100 or more a seat to hear him at Boston’s concert hall, but not even listen to him in the subway tunnel of Washington, DC?

Of the several explanations, the one most likely to be true involves pre-existing expectations or framing.  In the concert hall with a lot of fanfare and advertisement, we anticipate a great performance and usually have that experience. In the subway tunnel, we do not.

We do this a lot in our lives.

Can most people really tell the difference in the $20 and $100 bottle of wine? Do the $100,000 Mercedes and the $40,000 Subaru really drive differently? (The Subaru is actually more reliable by Consumer Reports).

We pay more because we believe it is better. This is part of our honesty and truth.

While sometimes we lie to ourselves, much of what we believe to be true is interwoven with our expectation and interpretation of an experience.

This frame of reference is also influenced by other events in our lives, how we are feeling, and the expectation we bring to the experience.

How do we approach this issue for our good?

We can stay curious, stay in the moment (try to leave expectations out of the equation), and assume good intentions.  Meditation and mindfulness involve these principles.

It is our choice – good or bad, happy or sad. That is why gratitude is such a powerful emotion – it frames our mind positively.

We decide.

With the right attitude of gratitude, we can see a greater truth and life fulfillment.