THE PROBLEM OF PERSPECTIVE
Think about a problem that is really bothering you at this moment. Once you’ve thought about such a problem, answer this question: On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = not at all, 10 = a lot), how much is this problem bothering you? If you answered 7 or less, then I suggest that you pick a problem that is at level 8 or above. Once you’ve thought of something at level 8 or above, please read on.
Now imagine you are told, at this very moment, that you are going to die in less than a month. I know this is just a hypothetical exercise, but let this new fact really sink in, as if it were true.
Once again, pause and ask yourself: “To what extent is the problem that I identified bothering me now?”
I predict with 100% certainty that your score will be much lower than it was a minute ago!
You may at this instant be thinking: “Yes, that is true, but what’s the point?” Here’s my point. The reason your problem isn’t bothering you as much now as it did before is because, in light of the new information (imminent death), your perspective on the problem has changed. In contrast to imminent death, your original problem is not a big deal.
The great Greek philosopher Socrates captured the essence of this type of change in perspective very skillfully when he said, “If all our misfortunes were laid in one common heap, whence everyone must take an equal portion, most people would be content to take their own and depart.” In other words, in comparison to all the possible problems that we could have, our own challenges seem much more acceptable.
The reason that many situations seem like problems to us is because we don’t view these situations from the appropriate perspective. And so when we do alter our perspective, we can change the way we feel about the problem. As Dr. Wayne Dyer, best-selling author and popular speaker, puts it: “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
Therefore, in essence, the biggest problem we all have is a problem of perspective.
HOW DO YOU CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE?
How do you alter your perspective on an issue or a problem? One of the most effective ways is to ask yourself a simple, but powerful question when facing a problem or an issue. And that question is:
“In the grand scheme of things, will this incident/issue/problem matter a month from now, or a year from now, or a decade from now?”
By pausing to reflect in this way, you force yourself to get a helicopter view of the situation. And when you view the situation from a higher vantage point, you’re more than likely to change your perspective, or at the very least, lower your emotional intensity about the situation. This reduced emotional intensity results in a clearer headspace, a place from which you are better able to develop an effective action plan for confronting and resolving the issue.
Some other approaches to help alter your perspective are outlined below:
1. Get clarity. Sometimes a lack of beneficial information causes us to jump in our thinking to the worst-case scenarios. To avoid this, ask yourself:
- Could I be misunderstanding the situation?
- Are the assumptions that I’m making correct? How can I be 100% sure?
2. Check for an overreaction. At times, we make a bigger deal out of something than it really is. To determine if this is the case, ask yourself:
- Am I overreacting?
- Am I making more of this than is necessary?
3. Look for the gift and the opportunity. Napoleon Hill, in his famous book Think and Grow Rich, said, “Every adversity carries within it a seed of equal or greater opportunity,” a restatement of the saying “every cloud has a silver lining.”
To uncover the potential gift in any situation, ask yourself:
- What is the gift that might be disguised in this problem?
- How can this problem/situation provide me with an opportunity to grow even more? (Every problem is an opportunity to grow if you choose to believe it.)
4. Look beyond the problem. Instead of focusing on the problem, imagine and anticipate the positive emotions you’ll feel once you’ve resolved the problem.
I think you’ll now see that changing your perspective is very possible!
The following quote from Allen Neuharth, the businessman who founded the most widely read newspaper in the United States, USA Today, sums up the essence of this blog.
“The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective.”
Bring this quote to mind at times when you sense you need to tweak your perspective and return to this chapter for assistance in the process.