Your perspective of the world is unique to you. It’s your interpretation of information gathered through your senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch which are woven together to form a picture that is then tinted and shaded by your society, culture, education, family beliefs, the media as well as your individual ‘evidence’ gained throughout your life. As a result even a twin will perceive his or her world in many different ways from their sibling, despite having a virtually identical up bringing. Our perceptions give us many different views of the world that we live in. For example, some say, “We are all doomed”. These words come from those whose perspective is coloured by the Euro-zone crisis, changes in our climate, population explosion, unrest in the Arab world and a global power shift from the USA to China. Their ‘gathered’ information reads that we are headed for catastrophe. And yet there are many people who gather the same information and say, “We are stepping into a new age of enlightenment”. They perceive the turmoil and rapid changes we’re currently experiencing as a necessary part of the transformation bringing in a new era where we will live in very different ways from now. Wildly different perceptions in this case, which is, to me, a good thing. Different views, ideas and thoughts of what is going on allows for us to find deeper levels of understanding. It flings open the doors to creativity and gives rise to the possibility of new ways of being. So, do you need to change your perspective of the world? I cannot answer that: but you can. However, before I explore this with you, let me show you something.
This is a Mercator Projection map – first drawn in the 16th Century. It’s still widely used today as it helps sailors navigate using straight-line plotting. Now look at the map more closely and guess how big is Greenland compared to Africa? It looks pretty big in comparison, doesn’t it?
OK, now look at the next map below. This one is the Robinson Projection map, which was created in 1961 and used by National Geographic from 1988—98. Notice Greenland now looks quite a lot smaller. Finally, look at this last map, again focusing on Greenland (shown on the map in white).
This last image is a Gall-Peters Projection map. In this map, landmass of all countries is accurate, although the shape of some countries is slightly distorted. Africa is 14 times bigger than Greenland: 11.6 million to 0.8 million square miles. Yet, on the Mercator Projection map, Greenland looks as if it might be one-third of the size of Africa. Although I could talk about how these maps may influence our perception of big and small different countries/continents are, the real reason for showing you this was to show how familiarity (the Mercator Projection map is still widely used) can influence your perception to the point you no longer question whether or not it is correct. If your perspective is swayed by less than the full story, this can hinder your desire to change. No one can live a life whereby you check everything for truth: it’s simply not possible. In this way some of our perceptions are based on assumptions of what we think we know. And what we assume may not be correct. Most of the time the combination of our perspective and our assumptions create a good coping mechanism in life. But not always. If you find yourself stuck, feel negative or fearful or begin to believe that the world is conspiring against you, then a change in perspective will help you move forward.
Is then your perception hindering you?
Consider an area of your life that is not working as well as it could. Look at your love life, work, family relationships, self-esteem, self-image, community and friendships. Are they all rosy and blossoming? If one or more areas of your life leave you feeling deflated, frustrated, vulnerable, sad or hurt, then please take a look at these 5 steps to see if changing your perspective will help.
Is victim hood clouding your perspective?
This is a tough question to answer. Most people rebel at the very idea of being a victim in their everyday life, yet most of us employ this tactic from time-to-time. It shows up in minor ways like blaming the parking attendant who issued a ticket we believed we did not deserve. But also in a more serious way where we (usually without full realization) allow someone in our life to abuse and take advantage of us. I’m not talking here about random attacks nor in child abuse: that is different. What I’m asking here is to look at this within your relationships. In these situations the ‘victim’ usually perceives it is not their fault: it is the other person’s fault. To look at yourself with love and see your shadow side – the parts of yourself that you don’t wish to acknowledge or own, takes great courage. When you do this however, you begin to see your own role in these situations, of both tolerating and allowing the person to treat you in a disrespectful and/or harming way. This is the first step of changing your perspective. To read more about how to do this, see an earlier Tip I wrote: “Step into your own power“.
Seeing the other person’s point of view
There is a Native American saying that goes like this: “Before I pass judgment on a man, let me walk a mile in his moccasins”. When a boss, family member, friend, spouse or partner is getting under our skin, we often assume what they are doing comes from a malicious place. We also often take these things personally. However, more often than not we are not aware of what is really going on for them in their lives because we see things only from our point of view. The following exercise may seem a little daft, but it is actually very powerful. Sit at a table where there is an empty chair on the opposite side. Imagine sitting in that chair is the person who is causing you grief. Now speak (out loud) to this person. Tell them all of the things you wish to say. When you can say no more on the subject, pause for a moment. Now get up and go and sit in the empty chair. Your role now is to imagine you are the person you were speaking to and you now have to answer all that was laid out by you, but this time as if you were the other person. Although it feels strange to do this alone, physically swapping places with yourself allows you to switch perspective, which reveals so much more about what is really going on. Also see my Tip on Assumptions.
The truth of the matter…
Just as Greenland turned out to be smaller than we thought (because a globe can not be accurately printed on a flat surface), perhaps your perspective is coloured by a partial truth? If you are stuck and going nowhere fast, perhaps it is time to check the facts? Is the information you have ‘gathered’ correct?
Flipping the coin over
I find this tactic incredibly useful to help people see things differently. For example if someone is convinced their boss is mean, I ask them to list the times they have noticed their boss has been kind. Initially people insist there isn’t an ounce of kindness in their boss! But after some prodding, they nearly always can find an instance. Once one instance has been found, so can others. As a viewpoint is expanded, different elements arise that may explain why he/she is being mean, and it may have nothing to do with them personally.
Be curious: it may not be what you think
In Truth Talking, I often encourage people to step into what I term Wonderland. What I mean by this is to talk calmly to the person with whom you feel out of sorts, and after acknowledging their stance, and telling them how you feel, then ask: “I was wondering what/how/if ……specify the issue…… we can do this differently?” It is amazing how this tactic can bring up new solutions borne again from seeing things differently.