Do you remember that time in kindergarden when inviting kids for your party was the most important thing in the world? Do you remember in high school when your exams were the most important thing in the world? Do you remember at your thirties where your work-deadlines were the most important thing in the world? It seems like the things that matter to us, move with us through our lives. Along with age, we start to care about different things, mainly because we do different things. We have a certain reference-frame in certain situations that we connect with each other. A businessmen doesn’t care anymore whether or not you can take calculators to the exams, and a student doesn’t care when the Dow Jones increases steeply within a few hours. Our mindset, our view of things, influences heavily how we look at things and how important we rate them. I call this the reference frame. The reference frame is a collection of things your experiences and with which you compare your new experiences. Your reference frame is basically a collection of the experiences that make you, you. But your reference frame is dynamic and changes with the things you see, so where you are, what you do, and what you learn. The things you come across in time, your new experiences, are called your focus-point, the things/colors you see right in front of you. This concept might be somewhat hard to grasp, but I believe it is very useful. Because it is quite hard to grasp, I use a color metaphor in this blog to explain it a bit better.
The pure reference frame, the blank sheet
Imagine, you are a pixel with a yellow color, like the picture on the right (the yellow square). You have a yellow perspective of the world. You are born in a yellow world and you haven’t seen another color ever. This yellow pixel is like a prince born in a rich family, he might think that everyone lives the life he lives. He might believe that everyone has a personal assistant, eats with golden cutlery, and eats strawberries for breakfast. Children are pure in this sense, they don’t know what is going on, they only know their own situation, and treat this as the normal. Children view the world only from their reference frame which is quite untouched. They have a certain “pure color” and have no awareness, no memory of any different colors in the world. You can’t blame children for anything they say, they haven’t been formed by the social constructs and norms, they live through their own reference frame, which is naïeve and pure, but this will change over time.
Change and clustering
But then, the color Yellow moves to the color Red. The color Yellow suddenly sees that things can be different from him (like the prince who sees poor people for the first time). This experience is like seeing a whole new world for the first time. The world of the color Red is experienced by the color Yellow, and a new reference frame is formed. Yellow starts to learn more perspectives and learns about the different shades of the colors. Yellow might see Orange shades, Yellow-Orange, and Orange-Reddish colors. The more Yellow moves to Red, the more it seems extreme to him. But that is no surprise, Red is completely different from Yellow. The color Red and Yellow might be a clash, they might mix. Yellow might move to Red, or Red might move to Yellow. It is not always clear how interacting colors will deal with each other. Do you change your perspective towards Red, or do you hold on to your Yellow perspective? Or do you try to find some middle ground and diffuse into a Orange-like color? This depends on your own hardness, and your history. If you are a Yellow dot in a Red environment, it is very hard not to adapt and mix. If you don’t adapt, you’ll be thrown out. But if you are inspirational, the environment might diffuse towards your color. When you enter a new social group, both sides need to adapt to each other in order to work together. You both need to change colors a little bit. But it is quite an effort to change colors, so usually people search for like-minded people within the environment. Usually, you search for people with the same hobbies, the same beliefs, the same age, the same income, the same education-levels. It’s just easier to diffuse with people who are similar to you. A Yellow color can diffuse more easily with Orange, than with Red. The bridge between Yellow and Red is just larger for both sides. Here is where the clusters start to emerge. Groups of people associate with each other and become one (color). On the internet, we call these groups bubbles, and in real life we call them cults; isolated groups which only have like-minded thoughts.
How your memory determines your color
Everyone might start as a pure color. But over time, you learn about the world. You learn about different colors, opinions, peoples, and cultures. You have your own path that results in the mix you are today. If you started your whole life in “Red” but are now in “Yellow”, your mix might be Orange. When you started in Yellow, and are in Red now, you might be Orange as well. However, this doesn’t mean that you are the same. You had a different background, even though it lead you towards the same point (color). This is why everyone is unique; even when you had a similar background, the way you blend with the different colors of your past is a different process. The way you’ve been blend through your past has a lot to do with your memory. When you came from a Yellow color for your first 20 years, your Yellow past is very hard to let go (like culture, beliefs, religion). Somehow you need to blend your own color with the surrounding colors you are living in today. One way is to mirror the behavior of the environment. If you completely adapt to Red colors, you lose your own identity and become Red, or at least dark Orange. If you dress the way your colleagues dress, if you enjoy the hobbies your family enjoys, or do the things your friends do, you blend easily. But what does this mean for your personal identity?
Emerging world of shades
Well the thing is, that in this small world of Red people, a new world is created. Even though you might consider yourself as Red, you still have a Yellow background. People from the outside wouldn’t recognize this. They will just call your whole group “Red”. But the people within your Red-group still see your Yellow background (they will consider you yellow-reddish). Because the more you see the same color, the more you’ll learn subtle differences within the shades. You’ll see darker Red, Purple-Reddish, Orange Reddish, Green-Reddish, and so on. The more you know about the color, the more the details will emerge within your sight. You’ll start to see more things and more shades. It is just like a gender activist who knows about 30 genders, while many “outsiders” only consider two genders, or a toilet expert who knows about 21 types of toilets, while non-experts usually know about 2 type of toilets. An expert just sees many shades of things which outsiders regard as one thing.
The trade-offs of life
Your path of life shows how varied your colors are, and how much shades you have discovered, how many colors you have seen. Have you traveled the world, or did you dive into the details of your home-town? Do you have many “kind of” friends, or do you have a few but very good friends? There is a trade-off you must be aware of. You can either go in depth within one or a few colors, or you can skip across many colors but never discover the shades. I believe that the one is not better than the other, but they are different. I believe that some exploration of color is good to prevent total isolation, but a certain depth is also good to understand the colors a little bit better. I mostly believe that over the variations, you should have an equal depth to compare the variations with each other. However, this is a different discussion.
Your own reality of colors
The more you grow and evolve, the more you change. But the crazy thing is, that your reference-frame is moving along with you. When you ask yourself am I pretty? You will be likely to compare yourself to peers. When you wonder am I wealthy, you will be likely to compare this to people close to you. If you only been through a Yellow past, you will probably compare yourself will Yellow references. A bush-man might consider him the richest person in the world if he has never seen an European before. Just like the young-Prince who didn’t consider himself to be rich. But no one has seen all the colors of the world with all its shades. You can only really see the world through your own reference-frame. You only recognize the colors you are aware of. And you can’t see the colors you have never seen before. Your reality is therefore skewed. I usually think I am not that rich; this is because I am surrounded by the richest people on the planet (Dutch people of similar colors). But I am not fully aware of the poor people in India (other colors). If I lived in India with the money I have right now, I’m sure I would consider my self richer. I recognize (once in a while) that there are a lot of poorer people in the world but I just don’t see them that often, so I hardly think about them. I mostly think about systems theory, Quantified Self and the Healthy Workplace and consider these to be important, because I think about them often. However, everyone cares and thus thinks about different things. An economist wants the government to invest in the economy, while a scientist wants them to invest in science. You can consciously readjust your thoughts by just changing the world around you. To more you are confronted with the things you want to care about, the more you will be invested to it. This seems a bit weird to do but it is very effective; start doing things and your mind will follow. This is a frequent technique I use for many things.