How to be Successful in Life – Success Principle #4

Welcome Back!  I hope that you have taken the time to read my previous articles that outline the first 3 Success Principles of the 10 Principles for Successful Living.  If not, I would encourage you to back track a little and then come back to this article How to be Successful in Life – Success Principle #4.

Each article builds on the previous and addresses in detail each of the 10 Principles for Successful Living.

Spending time on each and implementing these in your everyday life will maximise your chances of making the necessary changes in your thinking and being and ultimately in seeing the results you desire.

For those of you who are up to speed, let’s continue with Success Principle #4.

The 10 Principles for Successful Living

If you need a refresher or need to read my previous articles here are quick links to get you there.

Principle Number 1: Boundary Conditions

Principle Number 2: Cause and Effect

Principle number 3: What we focus on is what we get

sign up for coaching tips

Principle number 4:     The map is not the territory

This principle is just fantastic.

It links to the previous success principle and it tells us that no matter how accurate we believe we are being about what is going on around us, we cannot represent the world accurately or completely accurately to ourselves.

The best map or re-presentation of any city can’t actually be the city itself.  It can only be a re-presentation of that, we can only re-present the reality around that, based on who we are and what we believe is true.

Your thoughts are simply representing your reality.  They could never be reality itself.

You seeing a glass in front of you, does not mean you are glass.  You are simply representing the image of glass to yourself.

Your map of the world will be unique based on your values, your attitudes, your beliefs, your experiences, your stories, your reference points and no two maps can ever be the same.

Even when we think we are on the same page we are still talking based on our own unique map.

It is through the exploration of your map that you know your map, that you can ask yourself if that map is working for you and is it getting you the results that you want.

It is something to think about. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi the author of Flow, the Psychology of Optimal Experience, Flow - The Psychology of Optimal Experienceestimated that we have around two million bits of information per second coming through the five senses.  That’s a lot of information.

Our nervous system could not possibly be aware of all that information, we would just be overwhelmed, we would not be able to walk, talk, breathe, anything, if we had to be aware of everything going on around us every single second.

So, what our wonderful nervous system does is to chunk it all down into manageable bite-size chunks to around 7 +/-2 chunks of information.  That’s about 134 bits instead of 2 million bits. Notice the difference. That is a lot of information you are leaving out.  A tremendous amount of stuff is not being included in your worlds experience.  It’s amazing when you think about it.

An NLP trainer gave an excellent analogy as follows.  Imagine you are on the web where there are billions of bits of information.  Now, that’s a lot of information to be taking in and you can’t possibly be taking it in all at once.  But, if you use a search engine and you type in a specific word, say health, you will only pull up those bits of information that are going to coincide with what you searched for.  It will only pull up health.

Well, your nervous system works exactly the same way.  In life you will get what you look for.

Deleting Distorting Generalising (DDG)

The filtering system that we’ve got going is pretty amazing and complex and it is just a phenomenal piece of engineering.  With 2 million bits of information going on, how does it know what to leave out?  How does it know what to filter in?

Well, it’s going to filter in whatever you think is relevant for you now or for your future.  Everything else is deleted, distorted or generalised (DDG). Your filtration system and your nervous system deletes, distorts and generalises anything it is not looking for and that is how focus works.

That’s how the map is not the territory.

Twenty people seeing the same sports game will have twenty different experiences of that sports game based on what they are filtering.  It will be based on what they delete, distort and generalise.

They will delete evidence of the other team doing well for example.  They will distort how amazing their team is by deleting any negatives about their team and they will generalise to say, “well, they did well in the previous innings and that means they will do great in the next innings”.

I’m using a sports analogy here, but this is what we are doing the whole time in every aspect of our life and our business.  We are deleting and distorting and generalising.

Now, this can be an amazing mechanism that works for us, or it can work against us.

Because what if the thing you are filtering out is the very thing you need to filter in to create the result that you need and want.

What if by filtering out evidence of success, you condemn yourself to keep repeating the patterns of non-success in your life.

What if by filtering in evidence of how you can create success you start getting more of that result?  Wouldn’t it make it worth doing?  Wouldn’t it be something that you would be willing to do?  Isn’t it a step you would need to take?

Again, this is just science.

Now, I’m going to use a coaching example here.  So, when I see a client leaving out possibilities/options, or distorting or telling themselves they could never do it, they are generalising.

What they are doing is filtering out the very thing that would create the change that they are looking for.

I’m curious as to what would happen if they started filtering in possibilities.  What would their outcomes become?  That’s what I want to know about and that’s how focus works.

The question I want you to ask yourself is what experiences are going on in your life that matter to you?

The next question is, what about those experiences are you filtering in?

Now, the more challenging question is, what about those experiences are you filtering out?

The reason that that is more challenging is because you need to become aware of what it is you are filtering out to know what you are filtering out.

Need personal coaching? Visit Life Energy Coaching or Life Coach Hub

Who What How

But how do you become aware of it if you are not aware of it because you’re filtering it out.

This is how you do it.  Think about the result you want in the area of your life that is topmost in your mind now.  Think about an experience that perhaps you want to change the results in and think “what result do I want?”

Then ask yourself:

  • Who has the results I want in life?
  • What did they filter in?
  • What did they do?
  • What did they believe?
  • What did they notice, what did they tell themselves?
  • How did they hold themselves?
  • How did they communicate?
  • What actions did they take?

Side note:  You don’t have to necessarily know exactly what the answers are but I’m sure you could make a pretty good guess.  And if you want to take it a step further and you know the person, ask them.  People love that.  You may not actually personally know them but it’s possible you can reach out and ask to meet.  Again, most people love to share and help.  And if not, just guess.  

If you do all of that you will become aware of what you are potentially filtering out and what you need to start filtering in.

Back at the Warehouse

Now, I want to take you back to the warehouse of pure potentiality for a moment.

In that warehouse every potential exists but the ones you notice are where you are focusing because your filtration system has to delete, distort and generalise about your experience to make sense of it so you can function.

It is going to be filtering in those parts of those experiences that it thinks is relevant to you now or for your future. 

But, what if:

  • You turned around and faced the other direction and noticed completely different things?
  • What you thought was up became down or small became large?
  • What you thought was impossible became possible?
  • What you thought was hard became effortless?
  • What you thought was a challenge became an opportunity? and
  • What you thought was rejection was in fact a gift to serve you?

What if you did all of that all of the time around this experience?  Do you think you would start experiencing it differently?  Would you start filtering in different evidence?  I think you would.

I’m unlikeable and they’re rude

Here’s a simple example of shaking up your thinking:

Somebody walks past you who you know and they don’t say hello to you.  Now remember, we are going to filter our experience based on who we are and who we believe we are.  Now we could say, “Oh, they don’t like me” or we can tell ourselves, “they are really rude”.

How do we come to that belief?  What did we have to filter? What did we have to delete, distort and generalise to come to that or maybe we have to delete evidence of the fact that they were frowning with their head down?

Perhaps we have to distort the way they walked past and distort it in such a way that instead of them just walking past we’ve decided they did it in a huffy way.  So, we have distorted how we actually experience them or have distorted in such a way that it has created the negative experience.   What if we generalised it and if somebody walked past and does not say hello, it would always mean that they don’t like us, interesting.  Or, worse still we can generalise to the extent that we make a global attribution that “noone actually likes me”.

sign up for coaching tips

So, shake it up!

Now, what if somebody walks past and doesn’t say hello and the meaning you give it is, “they must be really busy”.

You are going to be filtering in different aspects of that experience.

Instead, you won’t delete the fact that they look busy with their head down and frowning, you will filter that in.  That will become part of how you experience it.

You will also distort it possibly, so maybe as they are frowning and walking past you, you think, “how can I support them?”.  So, it doesn’t just become about them being busy, you move it to how can I support them.

And you might even generalise to say, anybody who walks past me without saying hello is generally busy and needs my support.

So, this is a different way of looking at it, same experience, just a different focus.

Now, how you choose to focus and what you choose to filter in will determine to a large extent the results you get in your life.

Because, if there’s any area in your life where you are not getting the results that you want, how do you need to shift your focus?  What do you need to start filtering in and noticing?

Now, I want you to take some time with this and start playing with it before we move to the next level.

What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours

Let’s move to the next level now. 

Not only do you need to find out what your map of the world is, but we need to start really respecting other peoples’ maps.

We always have to assume that we don’t know what another person’s map is and that it is worthy of our respect, even if it seems really, really messed up (to us, that is – remember, it can make absolute sense to them or feel true to them).

So, for example, if somebody really wants to succeed and they keep telling themselves how rubbish they are and how they can’t do it.  Well, it’s pretty self-evident from everything you previously learned that they are going to find it really challenging to get the success that they are looking for.

It’s a pretty messed up map because they keep telling themselves “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, but I really want to, but I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, but I really want to.”  Basically, that’s just a strategy for disappointment.

And even knowing that they have a strategy for disappointment, it is still worthy of one hundred percent of our respect because they are doing the best that they can with the resources they have available to them.

That belief might have come from having failed at something years ago that was very important to them and everybody told them they could never do it.  A whole bunch of key influences in their life may have just dragged them down and said you can’t do it.

What they did after that was to start generalising and whenever they went to do something (anything), they would remember that they can’t do it.  They would absolutely have to delete any evidence of times when they had done it and they would definitely need to distort it to such an extent that even a small success becomes just a fluke or it was just luck or that won’t happen again.

They are going to be using the filtration system in a way that works perfectly to support that belief.

We could think of hundreds of different scenarios that has influenced the creation of their map.

And you need to respect that and respect that in yourself.  You really need to respect that your and another person’s map of the world has come about through years of filtering, years of deleting, distorting and generalising about what the world means to them and about how you and they interact with it.


Doing your Emotions

Sometimes when something is very challenging for us, we can do overwhelm.

Notice my language here.  I have said the word ‘do’ and I have said it a few times around an emotion previously.

I choose to believe that any emotion we do is by choice and that moves me to cause.

So, what emotion do you choose to do?  Do you do overwhelm or do self-pity?

I’m doing this deliberately.  I’m doing it with volition to get you to move to cause and to realise that you are 100% responsible for that emotion.  It is something you do, we do emotions.  We have a say in the emotion we do.

Here’s an example, let’s say you have never heard of the word ‘anxious’ or the language around it – would you be able to do anxious?  Would you still be able to do it? Well I doubt you would because you have no mental construct or image around what that is.  You have no language that says to be anxious you have to shake, tremble, sweat, hyperventilate etc or whatever the symptoms may be that we read about.

What I know now is that we are only ever feeling what we are thinking.

Generally, we cannot have an emotion or feeling without a thought first.  Emotion/feeling follows thought.  So, we have power over that, we have power over what we choose to think and as such, how we choose to feel.

Also, and I won’t go into great detail here, but physiology creates psychology too.  Think about it.  In a physical sense – how does a person do overwhelm, worry or anxiety?  How does one do confidence?  This is powerful stuff and can change how you experience life.

This about how one holds their body when ‘doing’ these emotions, the facial expressions etc etc.

So, in terms of the map not being the territory, what gets exciting for me is thinking, what map would I need to have to move from overwhelm to do a different emotion? 

And I could ask myself, if I don’t do this emotion what emotion do I want to do?  I want to do playfulness and willingness to be courageous.

So, I move to that emotion by saying to myself what do I need to notice about this situation, this challenge?  What do I need to start filtering in about it? What do I need to appreciate about it? Where is the gift in this?  How will I grow through working through this challenge?  Who do I need to connect with?  How empowering or resourceful do I need to be?

That is going to move my focus immediately and now my map is changing, now my map isn’t all “Oh no, it’s another problem, it’s another challenge, I am feeling overwhelmed”.

Now my map is “I have an opportunity here to build some relationships with people in an empowering way.  We have an opportunity here to take our business to the next level.  We are being presented with a gift in the form of this challenge, to really think through what we need to do to deliver, so next time this isn’t a challenge, but of course this is an opportunity.

What a different way of thinking.

What now? Take a Look!

  1. Start to notice how you are choosing to represent the world to yourself and are you representing the world in a way that is working for you and getting you the results that you want?  Look at your map.
  2. Sometimes we need a helping hand (I certainly did).  Check out these life coaching sites to find what you need – Life Coach Hub; Life Energy Coaching
  3. Check out My Top 10 Recommended Book List on mastering your mindset and changing your life.
  4. Start to become aware of what you are filtering in and out and begin to filter in more of what you need that will serve you using the example under ‘Who What How’ and ‘Back at the Warehouse’ or read my articles What is the Power of Awareness? Waking to a Life Unimagined and What is Mindfulness Practice? The Path to Happiness.

All of the results and all potential are available to you right now.

What potentials are you choosing to see?   Are you starting to see how powerful these success principles can be in your life?  Are you starting to notice in here the potential for transformation using just that one success principle?  

Are you getting a feeling within you that the potential for change isn’t that the world needs to change or that things need to be different around you, it’s simply that you need to change your focus on what you are noticing around you. What an amazingly empowering belief to have.

4. Subscribe to my website (scroll to the top or bottom of the screen) so you don’t miss out on Success Principle Number 5.

Would love your comments and feedback on this article. Please share to facebook too if you think it is worthwhile.

Go Beyond and Explore your territory!


sign up for coaching tips


  • JoAnne

    What powerful insights Martine, the information you have shared is where the base of my mindest lies, most days. So much can be learned by applying these success principles this on a daily basis.

    I am looking forward to Success Principle #5


  • Deb

    This is an amazing article and I’m going in for a second read as I feel I need to really get these valuable principles firmly ingrained on my brain. I am definitely going to be sharing this piece. So simple yet so powerful. Love it!!

    • Martine Brooks

      Thanks very much Deb. Come back any time to re-read. It can take a little practise particularly when the ego gets a hold. You can read about the ego here and how it can wreak havoc. The ego will dig its heels in to keep you where you are too….so just be aware. Would love for you to share it. Thanks for your comment.

  • Leigh jamieson

    I was absolutely captivated by this entire site. The insights and elegantly explained concept of each Principle was so appealing that i could literally not look away from my screen. I cannot explain to you how through each title i literally imagined a scenario I have been faced with and my reaction to it. I cannot wait for your future posts.

  • alexandra

    how beautiful you expose the truths that are right under our eyes, but we tend not to see them!
    We would no longer seek for happiness, which seems to be undetectable, if we could just change our way of thinking.
    I’ll be back soon!

  • Md Mohiuddin

    Creating principles and following are two different things, this article gives more clarity on how it can be done in a subtle way.

    Thank you for sharing this and keep inspiring.

  • Jason

    Brilliant article to read, found it interesting to the point of commenting on how great a read I actually found it, well done and keep up the good work.
    This I have book marked for reference to it in the future!
    Thanks Jason

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!