Changing Your Perspective Will Change Your Life
You are far more empowered in your life than you either realize or take advantage of, but your perspectives can hold you back. Our perspectives are the glasses that we wear to look at the world. More often than not, our life experiences and culture and, ultimately, how we translate them into beliefs become our perspectives. So, for example, my life experience with people in foreign countries when I have been traveling alone has been predominately positive. In my experience, people have been helpful and welcoming. This becomes my belief and eventually my perspective that I carry with me whenever I travel. I know that other people have had different experiences, and, as a result, their perspectives of people in foreign countries may be different.
Neither perspective is good or bad, or completely correct or incorrect. They are two different pieces of the same puzzle, that when brought together bring about a clearer view of reality.
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Our perspectives color how we see ourselves, how we see the world, how we respond to life events, and how we interact with others.
They are created through a narrow slice of our individual life experiences and are also based on our culture, family, religion, etc. It is impossible for anyone to have a truly unbiased perspective on anything because we cannot rid ourselves of our life experiences and the things that have made us “us”.
Our perspectives, therefore, are just one viewpoint of a situation, and there are likely dozens, if not hundreds of different ways to look at the exact same situation. Each is just a tiny piece of the complete picture and the truth and reality of the situation. This means that if we want to truly understand something, we will need to widen or broaden our perspective of a situation beyond our current perspective. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. We tend to protect our perspectives by consciously or unconsciously looking for ways to validate our perspectives and beliefs. We end up reading articles that align with our perspective, talk with people who have the same perspective or watch news channels that share the same perspectives. At the same time, we may also filter out any information that would negate our perspectives and beliefs. We react defensively to people who say something different than our perspective and may even go as far as to discredit research as being invalid or incorrect. What this does is limit you. You are, in effect, closing yourself off from more information that would help you develop a more robust and more accurate perspective and belief about the situation. In doing so, you prevent yourself from growing, evolving and even changing the situation, because when you change your perspective, you can also change the outcome of the situation.
Here’s why: your perspectives also shape how your future interactions and experiences will go. You will walk into any situation with a pre-determined idea and perspective of how it is going to go. We’ve all experienced this. If you go to a party expecting that it will be fun, you will end up having fun. But if you go to the exact same part expecting a horrible time, then you have a horrible time. There’s a great fable that illustrates this beautifully. An old man is sitting on a bench midway between two villages. He sees a man approaching, walking from one village to another. He asks the man, “How are the people in your village?” The man replies, “They are kind and welcoming.” The old man replies, “You will find the people in the next village to be the same.”
The old man continues sitting, and he sees another man approaching from the same direction as the first man. He asks this man the same question, “How are the people in your village?” This man replies, “They are mean and dishonest.” The old man replies, “You will find the people in the next village to be the same.”
So your perspectives are not only created from your life experiences, but they also shape your life experiences going forward.
That’s pretty deep when you think about it. It’s almost as if our perspectives run our lives, instead of us! Does that mean that perspectives are bad? Not at all. Your perspectives help your being make sense of the world and organize your experiences into insights and findings. They give you an initial framework from which to view the world. But if you want to live courageously and authentically, you need to recognize that your perspectives are incomplete and only one small viewpoint. Your perspectives are a starting point from which you can continue to explore and grow and learn more about yourself in the process.
Identify and Define
To broaden — and even possibly change — your perspectives so that you have more clarity and awareness, you need to start by identifying what your perspectives are. We all have many perspectives on pretty much everything in our lives — health care, relationships, love and marriage, gay rights, politics, tolerance, self-love, equality; the list is endless. It may sound simple to identify your perspectives, but they may be so much a part of you that you can’t even recognize them as perspectives, and, instead, view them as fact. Start by defining an area of your life that you want to have more clarity on. Imagine that a friend asked you for your opinion about that area. What would you say is right or wrong about that area? Or how should things “be” or “work” in that area? Your answers are great insights into your perspective. Make a list of your responses and then spend some time reviewing it.
Your goal is to be able to succinctly state how or what you feel about the situation or focus area. That will be your perspective.
With your perspective defined, spend some time reflecting on it. How has that perspective shaped your life (as it relates to that topic area)? Really spend some time with this. Think about specific examples of your life where you came in with this perspective. How did your perspective impact the moment in your life? Did your perspective drive what you said or did? Did your perspective cause you to lose out on an opportunity, or did it open a door for you? How does your perspective shape your life today? Do you carry it over into other areas of your life? If so, how and what has been the impact? Reflect back on the life events that caused you to believe this perspective. How have you continued to “feed” this perspective and validate it? Be gentle with yourself during this process. Your perspective is based on many factors, and you developed it by using the best information you had at the time. Your current perspective simply is what you are starting with and, you have the ability to modify and change your perspectives as you see fit and as your life changes.
Once you have a good handle on your perspective and feel that you really understand it, spend some time discovering what some other perspectives are for that same situation. Talk with people who have a different opinion, do some research, and ask questions. The important thing during this step is to remain as open as possible. If you notice yourself resisting the things that you are learning, reading about or hearing from others, make note of your resistance, and then, pause, take a deep breath if necessary, and remind yourself that you are looking for different perspectives. You do not need to agree with them, you just want to understand how other people may view the same type of situation.
Because perspective is only a small sliver of the truth, you can then explore and “try on” other perspectives. For each additional perspective you’ve identified, ask yourself how you would go through life if that were your perspective. What would be different? How would it change your life? What benefits could you have? What might be different or worse? How would adding this perspective (or changing to it) to your current perspective increase your understanding of the situation? How could it help you to be more authentic and true to yourself? Armed with all this information, ask yourself what you would change about your current perspective. How would you broaden it?
Try Something New
Once you’ve redefined your perspective, then it is time for the rubber to hit the road. You need to begin living your new perspective. This may require a little bit of work on your part since you will be training yourself a new way of being and a new way of looking at the world. Looks for ways to inject your new perspective into your life until it becomes natural. Of course, the thing about perspectives is that there is always going to be another perspective that you haven’t considered. I can guarantee you that after you’ve refined your perspective, you will meet someone else who has a completely different or new perspective than yours.
When that happens, begin by acknowledging the other person’s perspective. Remember that each perspective has some grains of truth and wisdom to it, but that no perspective is 100% correct or incorrect. By acknowledging the other perspective you create an open mind and the ability to have a conversation to understand the different perspective. Spend some time getting to understand the other person’s perspective. Without any negativity or rancor, ask the person why he believes this and how he got to that perspective. Listen with an open mind so that you can discover additional viewpoints that might enlarge your personal perspective. Then go through the same process above to see the impact that viewpoint might have on your life and then make a decision as to whether or not you want to broaden your perspective.
As you broaden and modify your perspectives, you’ll discover that the greater clarity and understanding that comes with that will give you more options on how you respond and act; and therefore, empower you more.
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