Getting the right perspective in life
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GUEST BLOG: Shared from Living Life Fully with Jeff Keller
How to Develop
a Healthy Perspective
Everyone experiences problems from time to time. But the way in which people respond to their troubles can vary greatly. Take the example of two drivers, each of whom gets a flat tire on the way to work. The first motorist’s whole day is ruined. He mumbles about his rotten luck for hours, spreading blame wherever he can and accomplishing very little at work. The other driver, however, treats the flat tire as a minor inconvenience. He has it repaired and quickly moves on, proceeding to have an enjoyable, productive day.
Each encountered the exact same problem. So, why did one driver get so upset while the other handled the situation with ease? What distinguishes them is their perspective.
The dictionary defines perspective as “the capacity to view things in their true relation or relative importance.” Think about the people you know. Do you have any friends or co-workers who continually dwell on petty nonsense, such as who has the larger office window? And how about those who sever ties with close family members because of a dispute over the seating arrangements at a wedding? It’s clear that these individuals have lost sight of the “relative importance” of things!
Too many people blow their problems way out of proportion, devoting precious mental energy to situations which do not carry “life or death” consequences. Virtually all of us will fall into this trap on occasion, but those who spend the least amount of time obsessing on trivial circumstances are likely to accomplish far more–and be happier in the process!
Yet, perspective encompasses more than just steering clear of petty upsets. It suggests that you’ve considered your place in this world and that you appreciate “the big picture.”
As you widen the lens of your perception, you’ll experience less tension, improve your attitude, develop keener insight into the meaning of your life, and most likely enjoy greater material success as well. The question, then, becomes: how can we develop more perspective?
One surefire way is through encountering and overcoming adversity. Dealing with difficult situations leaves you with a new outlook about what is truly important in your life. If, for example, you’re faced with a life-threatening illness, poor service in a restaurant will no longer seem very crucial.
Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for a major catastrophe in order to gain perspective. Here are some suggestions to broaden your outlook which you can implement right away:
1. Look at your problem in the context of your entire life. Ask yourself: How important is this difficulty in the overall scheme of things? What will this matter ten years from now? Okay, so you have a leak in your bathroom. It won’t significantly affect the rest of your life. Or, let’s say a prospective sale falls through. Sure, you’re disappointed, but it isn’t the end of the world. The key is to see the problem for what it is–and not let it dominate your thinking for an entire day, week, or month.
2. Think often about how you fit into the “big picture.” Ask yourself: Why am I here? What is my mission in life? Am I following my purpose? Am I resisting a path which continues to beckon me? These are not silly, philosophical questions which applied only to Plato and Socrates. I’ll be the first to admit that I never used to think about such issues. But I do now. . . and it has enriched my life tremendously. When you begin to contemplate these questions, you’ll pay less attention to petty annoyances–and be able to spend more time on things which will help you be a better person and make a more significant contribution.
3. Wake up to the miracles all around you. Whether you realize it or not, you are part of an extraordinary universe. Spectacular, mind-boggling things are happening every second. For instance, you breathe, your heart beats and you digest food all without any conscious effort. Tulips know when to pop up through the ground at precisely the right time each and every year. The earth rotates. . . the sun rises and sets. . . the seasons change. All part of a wondrous, never-ending cycle. So, shake your ho-hum attitude and begin to appreciate the amazing intelligence guiding the universe!
4. Be open to the idea that everything happens for a reason. If you doubt this principal, speak to people who, in your view, are positive and successful and who also seem to have peace of mind. Ask them if they believe that everything happens for a reason. Then, ask those who answer with an enthusiastic “YES” to explain why they feel that way.
5. Extend yourself to others. We tend to get mired in our own problems, turning inward and growing depressed and frustrated. Finding ways to serve and help others will make you feel better and broaden your understanding about the interconnectedness of all human beings. Even something as simple as offering a few encouraging words to someone else can make a world of difference–to them and to you.
6. Interact on a regular basis with those facing serious challenges. For example, volunteer each week in a local hospital and spend time with those who are ill. Or, donate your time serving meals in a soup kitchen. In either case, you’ll be helping others while at the same time learning just how well off you are!
7. Redirect your focus to the many blessings in your life. Are you in reasonably good health? Do you have your eyesight and mobility? Is there a roof over your head and enough food in the refrigerator? There are many people who do not enjoy these gifts and who would gladly trade places with you. So, focus on the many things for which you are grateful. To reinforce this idea, take the back of an index card and write “Count Your Blessings,” or “I have so much to be grateful for.” Place the card where you’ll frequently see it, such as on your desk, in your car or on the bathroom mirror.
8. Be around people who have a healthy outlook. We are influenced by the company we keep. Therefore, try to spend more time with people–be they friends, relatives, or co-workers–who seem to put things in perspective. These individuals rarely complain, can easily distinguish between what’s important and what’s not, and are a joy to be around.
9. View every problem as an opportunity for growth. Too often, we see our difficulties as negative experiences which are there to punish us and cause pain. As you look back on your life, you’ll find that many problems and painful situations led to personal growth and improved conditions. Maybe you lost a job which in turn led you to a better position. Or a relationship ended but you wound up in a more fulfilling one. So, develop a strong belief that the “bad” experience is there to help you in some way. Don’t curse your challenge; instead, look for the lessons or opportunities which your problems are showing you.
10. Watch your mouth! Do you frequently whine and complain. . . or broadcast your ailments and minor irritations to everyone who crosses your path? Griping reinforces your problems, makes you feel more miserable and alienates others. Find something positive in your life–or in the other person’s life–to talk about instead.
11. Cultivate your spiritual connection. I have found that the vast majority of people with healthy perspectives possess strong spiritual beliefs. Without belief in a Higher Power, much of life appears cruel and without purpose. As you tune into your spiritual nature, you gain a sense of purpose, receive more intuitive guidance and are able to see the reasons behind the patterns in your life. Each of us, at the core, yearns to develop a connection with out Higher Power. It gives us security, confidence, and peace of mind.
12. Every day, read literature which expands your perspective. It might be a spiritual book, like the Bible, or stories of people who have overcome tremendous obstacles. Keep reading whatever builds faith, love, and strength for you. The key is daily repetition.
13. Put yourself in physical surroundings where you can “get away” from everyday stress. Changing your environment can give you a fresh, relaxed point of view. Maybe you like to sit on the beach or take a walk in the woods. Find scenery which allows you to release tension and think creatively. . . and go there as much as possible.
14. Exercise. Aside from the physical benefits to our bodies, exercise provides release from stress and clears our thinking. I’m amazed at those who say, “I don’t have time to work out.” That’s like saying, “I don’t have time to be healthy!” After a tough day, exercise does wonders to get your mind off your problems and makes you that much more able to handle stress as it occurs thereafter. So put exercise on your schedule today!
15. Lighten up and laugh. We take ourselves and our activities far too seriously. Find the humor in everyday situations and, most importantly, be willing to laugh at yourself. The very act of smiling and laughing makes us feel better physically and reduces tension.
16. Simplify your life and restore balance. Easy to say, but not so easy to implement. Sometimes, we get overextended, taking on too many responsibilities or projects. We ignore loved ones and even our own health. So, maybe it’s time to say “NO” to the next project or demand on your time. Which is really more important–another volunteer committee assignment or spending time with your children?
As you gain perspective, you’ll find that your list of what is truly important will continue to narrow. In the meantime, bear in mind that perspective is not a destination which you arrive at and master. It is a fluid concept. As we mature, we tend to develop a broader outlook; yet there will be times when we become preoccupied with our difficulties and fail to see the larger issues. Therefore, we must constantly work at it.
Yes, maintaining perspective requires discipline. But the benefits–less tension, increased self-awareness, greater peace of mind, and more–are well worth the effort!
Jeff Keller is a motivational speaker and writer who maintains his own website at http://www.attitudeiseverything.com–drop by and visit him!