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Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, "Hey, there is an elephant in the village today."

They had no idea what an elephant was. They decided, "Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway." All of them went where the elephant was. Every one of them touched the elephant. 

"Hey, the elephant is a pillar," said the first man who touched the leg.

"Oh, no! It is like a rope," said the second man who touched the tail.

"Oh, no! It is like a thick branch of a tree," said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.

"It is like a big hand fan" said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.

"It is like a huge wall," said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.

"It is like a solid pipe," said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.

They began to argue about the elephant and every one of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated. A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, "What is the matter?" They said, "We cannot agree to what the elephant is like." Each one of them told him what he thought the elephant was like. The wise man calmly explained to them, "All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched a different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features that you all said."

"Oh!" everyone said. There was no more fighting. They felt happy that they were all right.




If I was to ask you “What does a toaster do?” you would answer “It makes toast”. “What does a kettle do?” and your answer would be “It boils water”. “And a lounge?” your answer “It is for sitting on”. Lastly I would ask, “So what do humans do?” and the answer would be “Humans are meaning making machines”.

In essence, we make meaning out of every experience we have. We are in many ways like the six blind men who felt different parts of the elephant & thought it to be something different than the other five. We can attend the same event with any number of other people and come away with each of us having a very different perspective, depending on what we experience.

How do you add your unique meaning to every experience?

Your past experiences, your beliefs & your values affect the way you put meaning to everything that goes on around you.

Whatever meaning we give to a situation, or think about a situation determines our emotional response.If we put a ‘negative’, unhelpful meaning to an experience, we are unhappy. For example, if someone raced past you speeding in a car you can think, “Boy are they rude, dangerous, or inconsiderate, they deserve to be locked up!” However if you knew that one of their children had just been rushed to the hospital after a very serious injury you might think, “I would be driving faster than they were” or “Get out of their way!”

It is not what happens out there, it is what happens in our heads; it is our thoughts that make the difference. What you think determines how you will react to situations in your life, as well as your behaviour. The way you react to situations in your life depends on how you perceive the world and how you perceive the world, is determined by how you think.

So, does changing the meaning we give to any experience change our behaviour and thereby our outcome?

Let me give you another example. There was a woman (let’s call her Joanne) who believed she may never have a lasting, loving relationship with a man. When we dug further it was revealed that she knew her Dad loved her, yet she could not help thinking that her relationship with her Dad was strained. She identified that this belief had been initiated by the gift her father gave her on her second birthday. She was an only child and she had been given a tool kit by her Dad. She made that gift mean that her father was disappointed that she was a girl and that he really had wanted a son (Joanne always referred to herself as Jo).  

Jo had taken this meaning with her throughout her life and gathered evidence that she was a disappointment. Each time a relationship she had with a man broke down she made it mean that it was because she was not good enough. Obviously this was making Jo’s life miserable.

Now I have two beliefs about people. The first is that people are inherently good and they do the things they do with the very best of intentions. Sometimes, however, their best intention is to keep themselves safe. They may not want to share openly how they feel as it may make them vulnerable.

The second is that people are doing the best they can with the resources they have. It could be that their resources are limited. They may not be able to express to people they love how they feel because they have not been brought up in a family that expressed love freely.

By asking Jo to consider these two beliefs and to reconsider the meaning she had placed on the tool kit, Jo was able to give a new meaning to the gift…one that would serve, support, challenge and nurture her. It came to her suddenly that the tool kit from her father had enabled her to spend more time with him, that he had deliberately wanted to achieve this and that he was telling her that women can do anything that man can do. This new meaning or belief was such a gift to her. Jo now believed she was good enough and this belief would filter through into the relationships she had in the future.



So what meaning have you given to things people have said or done to you? Are they predominantly positive or negative?

Are there people in your life that you believe have had a negative effect on you? Who may have hurt you or disappointed you?

If you were to take on the two beliefs that


1.    People are inherently good and they do the things they do with the very best of intentions, and

2.    People are doing the best they can with the resources they have


What new meanings could you create around those people, their words and their actions that would serve, support, challenge and nurture you?


Imagine living life with the understanding and compassion that comes with thinking the best of others and that all people who enter our lives bring a goodness and richness to help us live life to the full!

I invite you to choose to do this every day. When the meaning you give to people, words, actions and events serve, support, challenge and nurture you, you can respond in a positive, life-giving way and you will be freed to enter the experience of life with a new zest and sense of anticipation.

Keep shining!

Christine Anderson