You have the capability to change your life all with a simple shift in perspective – Demi Lovato
Have you ever met someone that just seems to always look at life through the lens of being half full rather than half empty? Does that individual, although not oblivious to hardship or challenges, still seem to have a positive outlook on life? It’s amazing how powerful one’s perspective can have on one’s life not only for themselves but on others.
Henry David Thoreau said, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” There are tons of fun and sometimes frustrating examples of how something can appear to be one thing to one person and something completely different to another. For example, what do you see in the image above? Do you see 3 or 4 sticks? What if I told you you were right either way? Like life, it is all how you look at something that determines the meaning…or in this case number of sticks.
We have all been thrown some curveballs now and then. For many, this year has been one for the World Series! But with most things in life, what we choose to do with those curveballs is up to us. We can see them as a challenge, something to learn and grow from or we can see them as an inevitable strike out that will send us back to the dugout.
Your perspective on things ultimately will determine your outcome. Our perspective affects our feelings, and these feelings affect our behavior. First things first: try not to focus on terms such as “always” and “never.” Look, nothing in life is permanent. The good news is that our perspective is ours to change. Changing your perspective is an ongoing process – and one experience can inform the next experience and in time increase one’s confidence in one’s ability to handle new challenges and recognize new opportunities.
The first step to changing something is to recognize how you are doing or viewing something currently. Ask yourself some of these questions…and be honest with yourself.
- Do I have an all-or-nothing thought process? First things first: try not to focus on terms such as “always” and “never.” Look, nothing in life is permanent and nothing is simply black or white.
- Am I replaying an old narrative over and over again? We call it a “self narrative” in psychology. The stories we tell ourselves and others have a powerful hold on our memories, our behaviors and our identities. Is some of your thinking tied to an old way of seeing things? Are you still holding onto a story about yourself that no longer holds true? Do you see yourself as inadequate from something that happened in childhood but realistic you have outgrown? When that old narrative starts to play back, try to catch yourself, take a deep breath and flip the script. YOU control your narrative – no one else.
- Does this perspective prevent me from being happy or feeling at peace? The thoughts you are having about this or that – are they serving you in a positive way?
- What am I grateful for right now, right here? Shifting our thought process even just slightly can move us from a place of fear and anxiety, to a place of empowerment and calmness. Life moves fast and it moves faster now than it ever has and for a lot of us it can create a base level of anxiety and stress. The constant thinking in the future and reliving the what if’s of the past can let us perpetually worn out. Being present in the here and now helps to keep us focused and centered in the present moment. Thinking of something that we are grateful for right now is a great exercise to bring us back to that present state.
- Is this my own perspective? We have all experienced it in one form or another that moment when we say or do something that reminds us of the voices of our parents or someone significant in our lives. It is only human nature to internalize other’s perspectives and expectations – not only about ourselves but about the world around us. Again, nothing is permanent, not even the perspectives that we take on. Simply ask yourself, is this my perspective, or does this belong to someone else? If it isn’t working for you, let it go and look for a new perspective.
- How do I want to look back on this moment and remember it? This is a great exercise as it can help you see the bigger picture of a particular event or situation in your life. For example, many teachers are going back to classrooms that are 100% virtual. You may feel unprepared, uncertain, and worried about how this will all go. How will you rise to this moment? Will you grumble and crumble? Or will you look back and think how proud you were to wade through this difficult situation, and how you did your best?
- How am I talking to myself? Tweaking your inner self-talk to using positive affirmations can go a long way. Rather than saying, “I have to do X,” try, “I get to do X,” or “I choose to X.” Changing your inner self-talk can change the way you carry yourself, feel about yourself and the way you move through the world.