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Do you believe your eyes?

I love maps. I still have a road atlas in my car and I have a map of the world on my wall. But do you know that maps lie to us all the time? I mean, they serve a purpose but they fool us into believing them. It's important to stay alert. You can't always just believe everything that you see.

The world map on my wall is "upside down," that is, Antarctica is at the top of the page. Interesting, yes. But, why shouldn't it be that way? After all, we live on a ball. Which doesn't have a top. Or a bottom. Just staying alert, right?

Quick, what's bigger? Greenland or China? Africa or South America? We've all grown up looking at a Mercator projection map -- a very distorted representation that has fooled many of us. If you picked China, good for you. Did you choose South America? Wrong. By a lot. Africa is 68% larger at 11.6 million square miles versus South America's 6.9. In fact, Greenland is the smallest of the four by far -- 0.8 million square miles compared to China's 3.7 million. The far more accurate Peters Projection map will give you a better idea of relative land size. (Click through the pages: It's really amazing!)

Even our own very familiar map of the United States leaves much to learn, especially in the next year as we are shown again and again red states versus blue states. Stay alert. It's not as simple as that. If ever there was a time for better critical thinking, it's the next 12 months in this country. Here's a map of the U.S. that shows us where the people actually are. Cool, huh? And here's one that shows where people are most likely to live past 80 years old.

I could go on and on. Like I said, I like maps. But let us remember the words of Alfred Korzybski who said "The map is not the territory." Don't let your eyes fool you. There is much more to the world than what you see. Keep your critical thinking skills sharp and take the time this week to notice how your visual impressions contribute to your beliefs. Stay alert. Open up that space between stimulus (what you see) and response (what you think) and allow yourself the luxury to see things a little differently.

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