The richness of your day, or life, depends on the breadth of your outlook , reminds Davina Greene.
Your perspective is your point of view, your worldview, your attitude towards…well, anything. You are constantly interpreting the world, as is everyone else; however, everyone is coming up with a different answer. We know the age-old example: the witnesses at an accident who somehow manage to paint very different pictures of what happened. Why? Because what actually happened becomes tainted by what our values, education, religion, or family upbringing programmed us to see, by what we want to see, by what our biases or experience levels permit. Sometimes biology can even play a role – remember the “Is the dress black-and-blue or gold-and-white?” debacle?
Perspective can play a huge role in determining whether people move towards you or away from you in their day-to-day lives. It leads to (perhaps unintentional) communication of what you find important, what you are willing to tolerate, how open and humane people should assume you to be. Are you, perhaps, the manager who can’t understand why people want to go home on time? If someone you know doesn’t engage with you in the street, do you worry about them or become enraged on your own behalf? Your potential audience narrows or widens (and your blood pressure rises or falls) accordingly.
Recently, I bumped into someone who worked with me many years ago. She mentioned that she had regretted leaving such a fast-growing, exciting company, so I asked her why she had gone. She now realised that she left because two “older girls” (we’re talking their 24 to her 22, here!) had turned her against it. She had wanted to build a career, whereas both of them were seeking to meet husbands, have children, and leave employment quickly. Without understanding their differing standpoints, she accepted their negativity as a universal conclusion. The lesson? It is not only useful to understand your own perspective, but to appreciate the perspective of other people, before you let them influence your life.
That said, your perspective on some topics can change day-to-day, even hour-to-hour. Not too long ago, I was teaching a college class and we were reading a case study where the leader of the company had been with the business since he was a boy. The class loved this, stating the importance of a leader understanding every nut and bolt of the business.
An hour elapsed. One of the guys started talking about his workplace and how the MD had finally realised that there were more modern ways to run a business. Now in his late fifties, he had begun to seek external advice. So, why the delay? “Oh, that’s just the problem of someone staying with one business for his entire working life”. So, I sat back and listened for a good 10 minutes to the class agreeing how awful it was that the company leader had no experience from elsewhere. That is, in Hour 2, they were contradicting everything they had said in Hour 1. Which they, of course, found highly amusing once pointed out (always the best way to handle having your own contradictions highlighted!).
They used to say that George W Bush’s opinion on any given day was that of whoever, in his office, was expressing their own opinion the loudest on that day. Likewise, an engaging, true story in a classroom, as above, can make the class forget an earlier discussion. And, most of the time, that’s fine. Not everything is so important that an unwavering viewpoint is necessary.
The area of Perspective is too huge to approach exhaustively, so don’t even try. It’s a difficult topic – I am, in essence, asking you to have some perspective on your own perspective, which is a little bit mad. If your perspective is narrow, there’s every chance you’ll never spot that fact for yourself, so it’s well worth consulting a trusted confidante for an outside view. Be brave! See the biggest picture possible.
- Notice if you tend to think ‘big’ or ‘small’, ‘positive’ or ‘negative’.
- Notice your use of generalisations (“…always…”, “…never…”, The world is….”, “People are…”).
- Notice if you are focussed excessively on either the past, present or future.
- How varied are the people and activities in your life?
- Listen broadly. Allow challenge, for growth.
- Learn to love the grey area – it’s where most things live.
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