There are well over 7 billion people on planet earth. Yet, each of us lives out of our own body, mind and soul. Each with our own unique perspective.
We’re shaped by our environment, our families, friends, the media, school, churches, television shows, mentors, books, articles and our personal experiences.
And then we have the various aspects of our brains, the DNA that literally runs us instinctually , emotionally, and intellectually. It’s no wonder most only have one point-of-view — OUR OWN.
But, the more we develop and grow conscious awareness, and flex the muscles of empathy and perspective, the more evolved as human beings we become. And, the more we can relate to various perspectives, even if radically different than our own.
When we can step back, and connect to the part of ourselves that is AWARE of ourselves, others, the world and life’s current circumstances, something magical happens.
BENEFITS of Perspective
1. We strengthen our ability to empathize, stepping into someone else’s mocassins and ultimately create greater intimacy, understanding and partnership.
2. We’re energized and inspired to take action or keep taking action, and ultimately realize our desired goals.
3. We have greater appreciation for our circumstances, however challenging they may be. And, it may just boost our happiness quotient.
4. And, when we connect squarely with the part of ourselves that is AWARE… we quickly notice, it’s the home of inner peace. Just the simple relaxing into awareness is generally peaceful, if we’re not simultaneously attached to our perspective or viewpoint.
The Perspective Muscle
There are countless ways we can flex the “perspective” muscle. You may be really good at shifting perspective in some circumstances, and not so good in others. The easier it is for you to shift perspective, the more inner peace you’ll ultimately have.
Flexing the muscle of perspective is one of my favorite things to do to appreciate where I am in any given moment and build compassion for others, which deepens my connection to both self and others.
Let’s explore a few simple ways to develop perspective, and see where and how we can push the edges of our current perspective.
1) Weather. This may sound silly, but this is one of my favorite ways to keep perspective on almost a daily basis. And, it’s SIMPLE! No matter where you live in the world, there is some place that is almost always colder or hotter than you. So, as we check in with the upcoming local forecast in our area, we also spot check a couple extremes. For example, today is much cooler than normal at 58 degrees. However, Yellowknife, Canada is our COLD reference point, where it is currently 7 degrees, with a low dipping down to -15 degrees this week. On the HOT or warmish end of the spectrum is Alice Springs, Australia, which is frequently in the 90’s or 100’s. These are two easy reference points to find somewhere colder or warmer than you. Taking these two seconds to check, allows me to appreciate whereever I am a wee bit more.
For more perspective, I also have various other cities across the country plugged into the Weather App. Where friends and family live, where we’re visting next, etc. Sometimes THEY are having the fabulous weather, like this week. And sometimes WE are. Doesn’t matter where we are, a few quick glances at how different the weather is in other cities reminds us that even in THIS moment, there is a whole other experience going on somewhere else.
2) Other people’s point-of-view. It CAN be challenging to see another’s perspective, especially when we’re very, very close to them personally. Our significant others, children and parents CAN be the most difficult perspectives to understand or relate to.
At the various relationship seminars I’ve been to recently, they include a panel of “all men” and we get to submit questions. Somehow hearing perspectives from men that are mere strangers, lands a little more deeply than hearing the exact same perspective from my husband.
If you’re locked into seeing a loved one a certain way, get another trusted perspective. If you’re dating men, great if you can bounce things off a close male friend (I’m SO grateful for my men friends!) If you’re dating women, an unbiased female friend or a coach can often balance out your perspective.
Another great practice is to pretend to be that person…with their beliefs, their ideas, their experience and their perspective. If we’re not sure… ASKING with an open heart can clarify things. When we step over “there,” we gain new insights that allow compassion and empathy to flow more freely, and that leads to deeper connection.
3) Hardship. Have you ever felt like you’re at the low point of your life? When we’re in the muck of things, it can be challenging to remember how dynamic life is. Just like the weather, it’s constantly changing and shifting, depending on where you live, and the season. You MAY just be inches or yards from the finishing line. And, it MAY be the beginning of a new path for you. Regardless, you’re always at choice. Unless you refuse to exercise any conscious will, you can shift your circumstances or at least your perspective about it.
For many, their most challenging moments eventually become recognized as a gift. One of my friends, Linda Kedy just wrote a book called “Cancer is Great for Your Health.” And, my dear friend Aurora Winter, frequently hears clients sharing how the death of a beloved ultimately became a gift in some way. Are you open to other perspectives?
Is this about growth for you? Is it about strengthening your mindset? Is it about taking new focused action?
And, just like the weather, it’s all a matter of perspective. For many of us, our toughest periods of time are still leaps and bounds better than others in the world, who are starving or without any medical treatment. Some governments control all resources, limiting growth, opportunities, food and even clean water. In many parts of the world, people live without electricity, heat or A/C and running water.
If you’re feeling down, allow yourself to be inspired by someone who has endured even more hardship than you. Nick Vujicic is a speaker with no arms and no legs who can quickly help us shift perspective. http://attitudeisaltitude.com/ Bethany Hamilton had her arm bitten off by a shark. History has gifted us with angels of perspective like Beethoven, Helen Keller, and even Ghandi.
4) Experience. Sometimes the best way to get perspective is to have a first hand experience of something you previously had limited to no experience with.
I remember spending a day in silence with the homeless people living near the Santa Monica pier. (It was part of a retreat). Those 5 hours gave me a priceless perspective on the humanity of the homeless. Wow!
As I’m now nearly 18 weeks pregnant, I have a new appreciation for all the moms in the world. I’m sure more will come once the babies arrive 🙂 I also have a new appreciation for self-care, since I’m now responsible for two other beings growing in my belly.
There are countless times when I didn’t really understand a particular life challenge or accomplishment until I went through it or observed it first-hand myself. Great examples include “being in debt,” “getting out of debt,” and witnessing our neighbors domestic violence experience.
That doesn’t mean we have to experience “everything” first hand. Reading about someone’s trials or hearing them speak can be enough to integrate another unique perspective into our being.
Where we can get into trouble…
As I was writing this article a girlfriend called who needed some perspective. She’s feeling ready for transitions in several areas of her life, career, relationship and environment… but is still floating in the land of confusion.
A couple key distinctions came out of our conversation.
Can other people’s perspective’s hurt you? While it’s often useful to take other’s perspectives into account, it can also distract you off course. Let’s say you’re enthusiastic about a new project, like my girlfriend, and a significant other, friend or mentor says, “Hey, that’s going to be a lot of work. It’s not your specialty. It might not work. It’s going to be hard!” How does that affect you?
It’s important to recognize, that other’s perspectives are just that… “their perspective.” Others’ perspectives are not to be confused with the truth for you. Sometimes it’s wise to open yourself to their perspective, it’s not gospel.
I’ve had mentors criticize marketing copy I’ve written that enrolled 100’s of people. Obviously, they weren’t my target audience.
We can twist ourselves into pretzels trying to please everyone around us. If social media isn’t your thing, skip it. If you have a passion for fruit flies, go for it!
At the end of the day, it’s up to each one of us to go inside and discover the truth for us. And then to honor it, the best we can.
The Comparison Factor. At any given moment, some of us will see the world as full of opportunity, goodness and beauty while others are focused on lack, misfortunate and calamity.
When we hear someone share their perspective, either positive or negative, we have a few choices. We can allow it to INSPIRE us or DEFLATE us.
Inspiration comes when we say something like, “Awesome, if they can do it, I can do it!” Or maybe it sparks a new idea for you. Or maybe you’re just happy for them. Or if someone is sharing a gloomsday perspective, you can choose a more powerful one or take action to ensure you don’t have to experience “their circumstances” first hand. We can be energized by both positive and negative perspectives. Heck, that’s what inspired Ghandi’s mission to abolish segregation!
Deflation comes when we think “I should be doing what they are doing now, but I’m not… so maybe there’s something wrong with me.” And, voila…downward negative spiral. Or maybe we collude with a negative perspective.
Remember, the mind is very malleable. When you lead it, it will ultimately serve you.
And the more easily we can “see” and relate to multiple perspectives, the freer we become.
SOULFUL CHALLENGE: I invite you to practice flexing perspective. Start by quickly noting COLDER and HOTTER weather than where you live. Challenge yourself to step into the perspectives of others. Challenge current perspectives on hardship. Look for opportunity to gain perspective by noting new experiences.
Is there an area where you’re struggling for perspective? Share them below on my blog, and let’s support you.