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In my previous article The Strange Accuracy Of Bus And Train Schedules, I’d mentioned how trains seem to always be on time in my area. However, today, as I sat on the train, a familiar announcement came over the loudspeaker, “Sorry, the train is running ahead of schedule, so we’re going to wait at this station for a few minutes”. Yes, a familiar announcement.
Over the last month or two, I distinctly remember hearing that message many, many times. Additionally, there have also been numerous times when there is some car broken down on the tracks and we had to wait there for what seemed like hours! What was going on? Only two months ago, I’d noticed that these trains are almost always on time! How come all of a sudden they seem to always be early or late?
This is a very interesting case of perception. Two months ago, I wasn’t wondering whether the train was early or late. I got to work and focused on my attention on work. I got home and was happy to jump on my bed. As a result, even if the trains were late, I probably didn’t notice!
However, ever since I wrote that article and the engineer thom responded with some insightful comments, I have been looking for evidence of what he says! And that is exactly what I found! Trains are suddenly showing up late. We’re suddenly waiting at stations because we’re early. We seem to constantly have to take bus bridges because one track or another is broken.
Yet, this is the same track with the same light rail service! Unless something weird has happened in the last two months, all this is simply in my perception of the situation!
When I was focusing on work, my brain probably did not retain information about the train schedules. As a result, nothing the trains did really made it into my memory banks. I probably just remember getting to work and getting home and concluded that the trains run on time.
However, as I focused on the train schedules and why they arrive on time, this information stream started becoming relevant! Train delays and announcements that went in one ear and out the other before suddenly got stuck in the middle. “Hey, that’s contrary to something you’d written before”, my brain tells me. For the last two months, this is all I remember about the trains as its smooth running has become “irrelevant” information.
It makes me wonder just how many other situations this applies to. There is just simply so much information floating around in the world that nobody can really process all of it from all the different angles. So each person really just sees a little piece of the situation based on their values and their understanding of the universe. People’s perspectives really are very, very different.
It reminds me of that story about the blind men touching an elephant (yeah it’s kind of a corny and cliche example, but kind of applies here). One guy grabs the trunk, one guy grabs the tail, another guy grabs a leg, etc. and each describes the elephant differently. It sounded grossly exaggerated to me at the time, but based on this experience, maybe that’s not nearly as out of proportion as I thought it was!
Incidentally, as I’d just finished writing How To Deal With Worrying, this experience seems even more relevant! It is even more important to focus on solutions rather than the problem. If you focus on problems, you’ll just start to see problems everywhere. If you focus on solutions, then you’ll see solutions everywhere and things will seem so easy to solve!
Same information, different perception, different feelings.
Sure sounds better to be the second guy though!
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A Light Rail Citation Makes Me Consider A Few Things
The Strange Accuracy of Bus And Train Schedules
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Eye Experiment Observations Part I
Eye Experiment Observations Part II
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