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Life Principle #8: Good and Bad Generalizations

Do you often find yourself always experiencing the 'same old same old' - for instance, no matter what you seem to do to get ahead, you always fall behind?

The answer lies in how you perceive and generalize the world around you.

So what is a Generalization?

In logic, it is a proposition that asserts something as true for either of all members of a certain group, or of an indefinite part of that group.

For instance, 'all flowers are blue' or 'many men wear trousers.'

A generalization can be either true or false.

In psychology, and perception in particular, a generalization is defined as "perceiving similarity or relation between different stimuli.

This can be between visual form, words, colours, sounds, lights, concepts or feelings"

Good and Bad Generalizations

In perception, we generalize to assist us navigate the world.

For instance we generalize the existence of 'a door' in front of us because it has the visual characteristics of other doors.

The thing about generalization is that there only needs to be one exception to invalidate the claim.

Many beliefs are derived from generalizations, such as 'The world is flat' or 'The Moon is Made of Green Cheese'

Generalizations are 'good' if they serve you, and 'bad' if they don't.

However, it still doesn't make them true.

With the door example above, this is a 'good' generalization because you are now free to walk forward and pass through it without injury.

On the other hand, if the door wasn't actually there but just a projection on the wall, it would be a bad generalization. If you tried to walk through it you would injure yourself!

"All Men Are Bastards" is a 'bad' generalization, because it simply isn't true. Clearly 'some' men are bastards but many are not.

It is bad generalizations that lead to what is called a 'logical fallacy', for example:

1: All men are bastards.

2: Jack is a man.

3: Therefore Jack is a bastard.

Whoever believes this may have come to this conclusion based on their experiences, which for them are true, but that experience is still limited in the world.

How Do You Undo Bad Generalizations?

Firstly become aware of what they are in the first place.

Do this by examining what is happening in your life - is it 'good' or 'bad'.

Whatever it is, remember that what you believe largely determines your perception of reality.

If you believe that 'all men are bastards,' most likely every man you come across will 'be a bastard' so that your prophesy comes true for you.

If you find yourself coming up across a lot of 'men bastards' ask yourself: 'do I believe all men are bastards'

Likewise, if you are having trouble being 'successful' in life, examine what you believe about success.

If you are having trouble dating, consider what you believe about dating... and so on.

Once you identify your inner beliefs, you then need to establish which of them will serve you best.

For Example

If you want success, eliminate all beliefs about failure and replace them with ones about success such as 'I am a successful person'.

Note this is is not a 'goal' - you need these as well - but having self serving beliefs is the first step to defining and achieving those goals.

Once that is done, you need a regular way of focusing on them. This can be done in a number of ways, such as the use of affirmations.

If you are visually inclined, pick a time to close your eyes and run a movie in your mind where this belief plays out. If you practice non-guided meditation, run the movie then.

Through regular practice and repetition, you will retrain your mind to always be focused on what you want, and hence you will always get it.

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