People see what they look for. And what they look for—what appears on the radar screen—is determined by belief and assumption.

Several years ago, two anthropologists with remarkable similarities of personality, philosophy and education were chosen to enter separate, essentially identical ape colonies to live and observe for a year. When they emerged to compare notes, they expected significant similarities, but instead found remarkable discrepancies. One anthropologist, after an initial period of transition, was accepted by the apes, integrated into the colony, and achieved a unity and comfort with the apes. The other anthropologist never got beyond the social periphery of his colony, remained careful and vigilant, always seemed right on the cusp of a conflict, and never reached a harmony.

The anthropologists could not understand the discrepant results, nor find any reasons. They puzzled for months until they finally found a difference in their approaches. The anthropologist who was never more than a vigilant outsider carried a gun. His gun never showed; he never used it; the apes never knew he had it. But he knew he had it: he knew that if things got tough, he had an “out.” The anthropologist who had no gun had a commitment: he knew from the beginning that he would either make it or not make it on his own. In retrospect and reconstruction, each of their assumptions created the reality that each experienced.


Your Coded Radar

To make informed, successful choices in a life or business story, we must learn to recognize hidden themes. We must decode the elusive language of mind and emotion that may “ghostwrite” that story.

Such influential beliefs, when brought into clear focus, become conscious choices. When you stop telling yourself all the things you should say and cease listening for what you want to hear, you can more fully assess the storylines. You can then revise the ones that don’t work and create new ones for personal and career growth.

For example, the most common reason people don’t earn more money and accumulate wealth is that they don’t see themselves capable of doing so. Once people genuinely see themselves as capable, all sorts of things begin to happen. You code your radar for possibility. Coauthored assumptions, such as women commanding lower salaries than men, snap into focus.

Invisible storylines and emotional agendas about money can make people act goofy at times. Intelligent people spend money they don’t have. Sophisticated people get scammed, sometimes repeatedly. Rational people trade in leisure time for money in order to buy back some of what they just forfeited. Gifted people fail at converting their talent into sufficient income. Otherwise balanced individuals spend extravagantly or hoard compulsively. Dependable people ignore financial matters until they snowball. Highly principled individuals step over boundaries and write their own rules about money.


Wing-Walking to a New Life

Why can’t someone just simply break a poverty cycle and make a better life? A simple, if not simplistic and myopic, question—but not one with a simple answer. For it is not a matter of intellect, willpower or merely moving into a better zip code.

The question itself assumes that there is an intact alternative waiting to be chosen: a substitute story other than poverty, and another frame of mind than the one that has so permeated every cell of brain and mind, family and culture. It would be like saying, “I know this better galaxy system to which we should go, just trust me and go along with me to get there.” No one would or could do that.

The question assumes that a new story simply exists, awaiting discovery and claim. Of course, this is not the case: a new story is constructed only gradually and sometimes painfully by a person who must, in the process, give up what is known, secure and predictable. And like wing-walking on an airplane, you can’t let go until you have something else to hold!

A caveat: We assume that change is necessary and beneficial, and that its absence infers resistance or stuckness. However, not changing at times of pressure, impulse or various seductions may be a valid, informed decision.


Making Choices: Inquiries for Beginning a New Story

The following queries focus awareness on how you choose:

Growth and change begin with the recognition that we are the authors of our own stories. Changing your mind changes your brain and your life, as beliefs, goals and visions drive action.

DAVID KRUEGER, M.D. is an Executive Strategist/Professional Coach
who mentors executives, entrepreneurs and authors. He is author of
11 books on success, money, work and self-development. This article is
excerpted from Dr. Krueger’s soon-to-be-pubished 12th book,

Live a New Life Story: The Essentials of Change, Reinvention, and Personal Success.