I enjoy taking photographs! Through the lens I’ve observed that when some people see me taking their photo, oftentimes a slight shift occurs—they may stand taller, suck in their tummy, smooth their hair, or tilt their head slightly to their “best” side.
When we see others observing us, sometimes a story starts writing itself in our head about what we think they think. Each person views life through their own experience-based lenses and filters. Sometimes their view lines up with ours. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Stephen Hopson is an inspirational speaker, author, and the world’s first deaf instrument-rated pilot. I admire his perspective: “What other people think of you is none of your business!”
What matters is what you see, what you think, and how you feel.
In August my friend, Kathy Drue, published a post about fear in her thought-provoking blog Simply Here. Earlier this month my friend, Daisy Hickman, published a post about fear in her warm and welcoming blog SunnyRoomStudio. If you don’t already know these two wise women, please go introduce yourself—they’ll make you feel right at home.
Fear can be debilitating—it can cause us to freeze in our tracks (emotionally or otherwise), cutting us off at the knees.
Fear can be a leverage point—(emotionally or otherwise), helping us get from Point A to Point B.
One of my clients recently said, “Laurie, how can you possibly relate to what I’m going through? You have the perfect life—you don’t have anything to be afraid of.”
I’ll be the first one to say that her perception of me is not accurate. But as I shared with Kathy, I’ve always found it a good practice to set my fears down so that I can stand on them, and step up into joy.
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.
That’s precisely what I look like day 3 after The Incident. My face actually scared squirrels on our bike ride this morning!
Day 3 – Bar Room Brawl Look
Thankfully, it doesn’t hurt as bad as it looks.
Needless to say, I’m incognito …
Speaking of incognito . . .
In Washington, DC, at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.
About 4 minutes later:
The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.
At 6 minutes:
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.
At 10 minutes:
A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent – without exception – forced their children to move on quickly.
At 45 minutes:
The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.
After 1 hour:
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all. No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.
This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and people’s priorities. This experiment raised several questions:
In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? If so, do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?
One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be that if we don’t have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made . . .
… how many other things are we missing as we rush through life?