The Power of Perspective

This is a post I wrote at the beginning of 2016 on Blogger. Perspective is truly powerful. I find that I often have to change my perspective when things do not work out the way I hope they will. And sometimes, I have to dig deep and find the courage to change the things I can.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Last year I struggled with job dissatisfaction. I found myself see-sawing between hope and despair, complacency and desperation. The year began with anxiety about upcoming layoffs and the reorganization of our department. My boss and a few other people were laid off. Within months several other people resigned and we struggled to fill the voids. I also struggled to adapt to new management styles. My department was reorganized a second time at the end of the year and I was assigned to a new manager – my third within a one-year period.

Towards the end of the year, my pastor encouraged me with a sermon about Jesus being with us in the storms of life. He asked the congregation to share our prayer requests. I am not comfortable speaking in public so I kept my struggles to myself. But in listening to the concerns that were shared that day, it put my own struggle in perspective. Being unhappy with a job pales in comparison to worries about cancer or the illness of a child.

After the year-end reorganization, I was offered another position in our department. Again, my perspective changed. I felt hopeful. Even though not much has changed, I decided to see this as a fresh beginning.

Perspective is powerful. If you change your perspective, you can completely change your attitude. Here are just a few quotes on perspective that I found on Google Images:

  • What you see depends not only on what you look at, but also on where you look from.
  • If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. – Dr. Wayne Dyer
  • Perspective is the way we see things when we look at them from a certain distance and it allows us to appreciate their true value. – Rafael E. Pino
  • Some see a weed, some see a wish.
  • A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. – Winston Churchill
  • We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses. – Abraham Lincoln
  • When life gets blurry, adjust your focus.
  • Life is like a camera – focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negative and if things don’t work out, take another shot!

Perspective is often thought of as a choice between optimism and pessimism. I think of the image of a glass half filled with water with the message: Optimists see a glass that is half full. Pessimists see a glass that is half empty. Pessimists see a weed; optimists see a wish. Pessimists see the thorns; optimists see the roses. Pessimists see the difficulty; optimists see the opportunity.

Although I see the wisdom in choosing an optimistic attitude, I have to admit that I am not naturally an optimist. I would like to be optimistic but my natural inclination is to worry about what can go wrong. It is not that I always expect things to go wrong, but I am realistic. Things do go wrong. There are thorns. There are obstacles. I’ve learned to expect the unexpected.

Perspective is not just an attitude; it is a point of view, a way of looking at life. That point of view is influenced by our personalities. According to David Keirsey, author of Please Understand Me II, people with my temperament, Guardians, are the pessimists. My type tends to be “fatalistic” in looking back, believing that “pain and suffering are unavoidable.” Guardians are also more likely to think that events are part of a divine plan. On a day to day basis, we are stoical, enduring pain and hardship without complaining or showing emotion.

It is humbling to see my personality type described in such dark terms. Galen, a Roman physician, thought that the balance of the four humors or bodily fluids determined behavior. No doubt, I would have been deemed “melancholic” – prudent, cautious, realistic.

Given my natural tendencies, in my search for the right perspective, a more positive perspective, I have to make a conscious decision to reframe my point of view. I have to intentionally adjust my focus when life gets blurry, as it did for me last year. I have to focus on what is important, develop from the negatives and take another shot!

As I look around me, I see so much to be grateful for – my faith, my health, friends and family, and even my job. I see that other people are struggling with issues that are much more challenging. My heart goes out to them. I am learning to see the world with grace-filled eyes.

As I look behind me, I see the lesson learned from my struggle. From a certain distance, I see that I let myself become bitter about the corporate layoffs, so much so that it colored my outlook for the future in a bad way. I was more irritable and less kind. Things weren’t the way I wanted them to be so I made a mountain out of a molehill. It is time to let it go. It’s time to focus on what’s important.

As I look ahead, I don’t expect to see nothing but roses. I expect that there will be thorns. I do not find strength and inspiration in imagining a glass that is half full. Instead, I think about the lessons I’ve learned in running. Don’t think about how far you have to go. Run as far as that tree up ahead. Then focus on the next tree. If you need to take a break and walk awhile, that’s okay. Every step gets you closer to your goal.

I envision the steps of the Challenge Hill at Philip S. Miller Park in Castle Rock, CO – two hundred steps that climb 178 feet in elevation. From the bottom, the hill looks steep. But if you see the stairs as individual steps and keep your eyes on the steps in front of you, the challenge is not so daunting. Step, breathe, exhale. Step, breathe, exhale (gasp). 50, 100, 150, 200. You did it! And the view is much better from the top.

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