Every popular book gets both one-star and five-star ratings. Often the accompanying review offers reasonable justification for the rating. If you assume these are impartial reviews, then the rating reflects, at least partially, the disposition of the person reviewing the book. Each person reading a book reads it differently despite reading the same words. It is almost as if the book is rewritten each time it is read.

The reality gets much more complex when it comes to daily experiences. Unlike a book that may have 50,000 to 100,000 words, the world offers almost unlimited data to your sensory system and the mind. According to one estimate, 10 billion bits of information arrives on our retina each second. Out of this our conscious perception can process only a hundred bits of information per second. Thus, at any moment, we perceive a tiny proportion of the information we receive.

If you were offered several billion items and you could pick only a few of these, wouldn't your experience depend on which specific items you picked? Do you see how your experience truly depends more on what you choose to see and how you interpret and less on the external reality? With billions of bits of information flowing in most life situations, you can always find the few hundred bytes that are pleasant and give you hope, or the ones that lock you into fear and negativity. The most important aspect here, then, is intentionally choosing.

If you let the system be on default, it will pick the negative, the annoying or threatening, because that instinct helped our ancestral survival. But if you intentionally choose, you can pick information and interpret it in a way that makes you wiser, kinder and a more loving human being with a more hopeful and inspiring view of the world.

No matter what you do, please do not leave the system to its default operation. Meet your moments with intentionality to live a fuller life and leave a positive mark on the world.

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Dr. Amit Sood answers your questions about stress, resilience, happiness, relationships, and related topics in his column. Email dearfriend@postbulletin.com.