Because each person carries different baggage, we see the same things in different ways. Our perspective is based on what’s inside the luggage we’re dragging around with us. The contents affect our judgment. Sound judgment is absolutely necessary to stay alive. Being judgmental—critical—is not. They’re two very different things.
Have you ever gone to an art gallery to look at beautiful pieces of work? I find that I don’t stand still in front of a piece. I move around and look at it from many different angles. I shift my perspective.
When I find myself judging a person, place, or thing, I make a point to move (mentally) so I can observe from a different angle. I shift my perspective.
Our perspective—our point of view—is how we see things; how we think about them. Our thoughts shape our lives. Individually and collectively our thoughts contribute to the healing, or the demise, of the planet.
Our perspective is our reality. Our personal reality, however, may not be what’s actually happening. For instance, Chicken Little’s perspective was “The sky is falling!” When in reality, an acorn had fallen on his head. I love this quote from the Talmud, “We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.”
One of my friends shared: “When I’m disturbed, I mentally take a step back to obtain a wider perspective. When I’m confused, I mentally take a step forward to narrow my focus and observe only what’s directly in front of me.” I applaud her ability to change lenses—shift her perspective—as necessary.
For my clients who would benefit from a change in perspective, I have them do the following exercise so they can physically see that there’s always more than one way to look at something:
Shift in Perspective Exercise
(as shown in the slideshow above)
1. Stand up and hold your dominant hand over your head, index finger pointed at the ceiling.
2. Make a continuous clockwise circle about 6-inches in diameter. Maintain a clockwise direction.
3. Slowly lower your hand while continuing a clockwise motion.
4. Once the top of your index finger is just below your chin, take a look. Notice that your hand is now circling in a counter-clockwise fashion!
When you started, your observation was from below. When you ended, your observation was from above, an aerial view. Your direction never changed. The only thing that changed was the way you viewed it—your perspective.
In my experience, shifting one’s mental outlook—one’s perspective—even slightly can significantly change the trajectory and reveal the sun coming up beyond the dark horizon.
What did you discover the last time you shifted your perspective?
“Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.”
– Laurie Buchanan
© 2010 Laurie Buchanan – All Rights Reserved
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Simply loved this essay with its own excercise.Remember the half-full/half empty glass.Your observations help set the mood and spirits for the coming year.very therapuetic indeed.
Roamer – Ah yes, the half-full/half-empty glass; it’s all a matter of perspective 🙂
I continue to discover on a daily basis how funny (true laughter) life is due to the ability to perceive. It is a powerful tool in our arsenal that allows us to create our personal illusion or reality.
It can be freeing to know that every perspective is accurate for that individual. It truly is the way they see it – from where they are in this incredible game. That being said, the hard part (for me) is remembering that is how it works and not losing precious minutes of life trying to get someone to see things the way I do when then simply can not due to where they are in life.
Lisa – What you said, “It can be freeing to know that every perspective is accurate for that individual.” I agree that a person’s perspective is their reality (even if it’s not shared by others). What a person embraces (their perspective) is, indeed, their reality.
Hi, Laurie — lovely lesson. Sometimes I shift my perspective so often, I get dizzy! I love the part about how our thoughts shape our lives. I’ve heard it said to be careful of our thoughts because they become our words, to be careful of our words because they become our actions, to be careful of our actions because they become our lives. It is a gift to be able to observe life from different perspectives and one that I don’t think we use often enough. To be in conversation with someone and take a moment to say to myself “How is this moment for her or him?” and to pay attention to the answer is like taking a step out of time . . . everything is paused for those few seconds while the shift occurs and then something happens that could not have been possible had I not looked at the situation from another person’s perspective. Even if I can never have that exact same perspective, I am much closer than I would have been had I not changed perspective. And, I can always check with the person by asking them if I see their side of the situation correctly.
Barbara – yes, Yes, YES regarding thoughts, words, actions, life. I like your question, “How is this moment for her/him?” Oftentimes I ask my clients, “What’s it like to be on the receiving end you you?”
Perspective often governs how we react to a specific situation, a crisis, a work of art or an interpretation. As such, it’s an expression of individuality and an element that often informs value judgement, priorities and personality. It’s a concept that in various shadings in intermingled with opinion, world view and outlook, even if it’s tenets are more concrete and based in firm reasoning. Hence, what may be pedestrian for one can be breathtaking for others, funny for one, austere for another, complex for one, lucid for yet another.
Again, a marvelous and engaging lesson.
Sam – I wholeheartedly agree that our perspective (the lens we view life through) governs how we react. And I love your observation, “Hence, what may be pedestrian for one can be breathtaking for others, funny for one, austere for another, complex for one, lucid for yet another.” Our personal view isn’t the only one — and they’re ALL important.
Laurie I love, love LOVE this post! As a visual artist perspective is extremely important to creating a piece of art. In my work light and perspective hold hands throughout the process. I am a bobbing fool when I paint and take photographs… always wanting to experience and understand something from a slightly different perspective. Sometimes when I am hiking I will run up or down a hill just to get a slightly different angle. These practices spill over into my coaching and leadership work as well. But I had never seen your rotating finger exercise before. That is awesome. May I borrow it? With full credit of course. Best of today. Terrill
Terrill – I’m glad you enjoyed this post. I can’t tell you the number of times I show people the “shift in perspective” during a one-on-one meeting or in a public presentation. And yes – by all means – use it, share it, show it!
Since I have been suffering a lot lately with the interpretation of people being selfish, a friend suggested that I read a couple of books on the subject.
My perspective is changing and improving. I now understand from “their” perspective, they are just trying to accomplish what makes them happy. I do the very same thing!
Have yourself a lovely walk in the snow today! I bet all the doggies are loving it!
I struggle with the interpretation of “selfish” myself; in don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements, one of the agreement is to not take anything personally — we are all acting in our own best interests whether we want to admit it or not; even a truly altruistic action still comes from the innate need of the person to be altruistic; thus, that person is being selfish in meeting their own needs.
Barbara – I adore the book, “The Four Agreements.” That little bitty book can be read over and over again, and each time I do, I gain something new.
Beth – The realization that, “I do the very same thing!” is huge 🙂
Aligned with you all the way on this one Laurie.
I find context and perspective to be tightly entwined. SO many different ways of changing either.
The last time I had a serious change of perspective was in writing an email to Jen on Thursday – I got to accept myself and my situation at a new level, and in that sense of peace and acceptance, played the best round of golf of my life – 80 (13 under my 21 handicap – to win the day).
Ted – I don’t know a heckofalot about golf, but I do know that 80 is beyond outstanding. Whoo-hoo!
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I wonder where the teacher is? How long do we have to wait in class before we get to go home? Is there a 15-minute rule? A 20-minute rule? Or, in this case, a 24-hour rule? I hope she shows up.
Barbara – By way of explanation…
There’s a “core” group of us who love/support each other on a regular basis (chosen family). It consists of four couples. On Thanksgiving morning the father to one of the women in this group died. On the night of Nov 28 Len’s dad died. And yesterday morning the mother of another woman in the group died. Three parents out of four couples in a week’s time.
As you know, I don’t believe in “coincidence.” Much like you, as a communicator I capture my thoughts in writing. Making the dedicated time to think/write about these occurrences has served to underpin my suspicion that we “travel” in “pods” (those aren’t the correct words, but they’re the words that come to mind just now). This blog isn’t the venue to delve any deeper into that particular theory, but it’s definitely getting a lot of my time and attention right now.
you owe me no explanations, Laurie. I was feeling rowdy this morning and apologize for any insult implied.
Also (so mis-insightful of me), here’s a digital hug of support to give you some energy during these difficult moments . . .
Barbara – digital hug gladly accepted 🙂
Laurie, I just discovered this post this morning. You know I have had to make some changes with my computer and all is not up and running yet. However, if you’ll remember, in an e-mail to you yesterday I mentioned from a personal and professional point of view, deaths wiil in any given group seem to come in 3’s. This is not just my point of view, this particular piece of nickle knowledge is as old as the hills. Then this morning I read that within your circle, you have lost 3 people. I knew about the first 2, had no idea about the third. I am sorry for your loss.
Sandi – Between your email situation and my inability to communicate within the Gaia Community, it’s not wonder our messages to each other don’t always connect. Yes, I did see your comment about deaths coming in 3’s. When I Googled that, I found list after list of famous people (in groups of 3’s) whose death dates are very, very close.
Gaia Community Friends – Just so you know, I can get into Gaia, but for some reason, I can’t function (no email, no status update, no comments). OM Bastet told me to clear my cache, which I did, but that didn’t remedy the situation. If you’ve tried to interact with me in Gaia and I haven’t responded, please know that I’m not being rude, I just can’t.
Hey all of this seem familiar yet yesterday I was treated to this wondrous Ted presentation of Brene Brown http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4Qm9cGRub0
Jeff – That video clip was quite possibly one of the best 20 minutes I’ve ever invested. THANK YOU!
Than I am glad that I was re-directed to not post when I first read P is for perspective. and later in the day found the above video to share with you!
Because it resonated with me so much and offered a new perspective on the way we use language and think of ourselves…
I am Love, Jeff
Jeff – Brene Brown’s speech was fabulous and I enjoyed every minute of it; such a lesson in vulnerability.
Great I am glad you got to watch Ms Brown’s video too! I think it is worth more than one viewing!
I am Love, Jeff
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Barbara – I assure you wholeheartedly that no insult was taken. It was good to make the opportunity to get the explanation out there because for me to not respond for any period of time is well, very UNlike me — one might think it was ME who’d died 🙂
Laurie, what a beautiful love-filled blog. Like the bright cool dawn after a night of thunder, I taste the beauty of a writer of freedom so long sought after. Hugs & Hearts to you…
Kathy S. – “Like the broght cool dawn after a night of thunder!” I love the word picture you painted, thank you!
I wrote a long comment yesterday and it, too, got erased. Probably the Universe said, “Get a change in perspective and then you can come back and write on Ms. Laurie’s blog!” This is a beautiful blog, indeed. Just what Kathy S. said.
Changing our perspective is often the biggest gift we can give ourselves and others. We live in a kaleidescope world. All we need to do is turn the dial…
Kathy – I just checked the “spam” folder to see if your comment had gotten stuck in there, but it didn’t. I’m glad that you enjoyed this post. It was fun trying to capture the “exercise” in photographs. I like your perspective, “All we need to do is turn the dial…”
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