Perspective: This word is used often in everyday conversations, but what does it mean? With a few keystrokes (thank goodness for Merriam Webster Online), I learned that it’s as simple as this: the way in which a subject or its parts are mentally viewed.
This question occurred to me this weekend amidst a discussion about the difference between “partly cloudy” and “partly sunny” (I know it sounds a bit esoteric, but I actually had that conversation). Further research from the National Weather Service showed that they actually mean the same thing — it just depends on whether it is night or day. Imagine that!
We were planning our day, and as we looked up at the sky, we observed that it was mostly clouds, and that this would determine whether our activity would be indoors or out. As I got up to leave the table and turned in the opposite direction, the sky was completely clear — not a cloud in sight! Of course I turned back around and the sky I first observed had not changed a bit.
Earlier in the week, I’d been looking closely at the 40-foot-long perennial garden I have planted along my driveway. I was noting all its gaps and over plantings, its weeds, color distribution and, in general, all its shortcomings. My personal perspective was clear. Conversely, a visitor that afternoon greeted me with a statement that jolted me: “Your garden is fabulous!”
Same sky, same garden — different perspectives! Is it as simple as changing our point of view, or being open to another? Is it a matter of putting ourselves in another person’s shoes? Seeing the same things through different eyes?
Stop and consider this: How often in the course of our day do we hold just one perspective thinking that it’s the “right” one? How many times can we get entrenched in our position, firmly believing that we are CORRECT and that is the one and only answer?
I’ve noticed (after observing myself AND others), that when people are feeling victimized or angry, they very rarely are able to tap into anything other than their usual perspective. I can personally attest to this. Every time someone points a finger in my face and says, “You know you…” I typically shut down. It’s only once I start breathing again that I am willing to take a different look. To help me break through this wall, I find it’s helpful to ask the below questions:
- What’s in it for me to hold onto this perspective?
- How does it serve me to believe it?
- How does it separate me from those I love and trust?
- What wall might it allow me to hind behind?
- Who might help me understand another point of view?
I encourage you to ask yourself the above questions if you find yourself feeling “stuck” in a perspective that does not serve you.
Do you have any tricks up your sleeve that help you see things in a different light? Share them in the comments below!