How does our perspective change things personally and how we see the world? Our perspective is unique to us. It’s our interpretation of information gathered through our senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. This is woven together to form a picture that is then tinted and shaded by society, culture, education, family beliefs, the media as well as our individual ‘evidence’ gained throughout 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 world events, changes in our climate, population explosion, wars and a global power shifts. 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 that 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 are, for the most part, 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, now at a personal level, do you need to change your perspective of the world? Before answering this question, take a look at this map.
This is a Mercator Projection map which was 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?
Now look at this next map. 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 in white). This is the 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, Africa looks as if it’s barely 3 times bigger than Greenland. These maps influence our perception of how big and small different countries/continents are, but the real reason for showing you this not this. Rather it is to show how familiarity (the Mercator Projection map is still widely used) influences our perception to the point we no longer question whether or not it is correct. When our perspective is swayed by less than the full story, this hinders our change.
No one can live a life whereby we check everything for truth: it’s simply not possible. In this way some of our perceptions are based on assumptions which may or 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. When there are feelings of being stuck, of feelings of negativity, fear or feeling the world is conspiring against you, then a change in perspective can help you move forward.
Is 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 victimhood 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 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 ourselves with love and see our shadow side—the parts of ourselves that we 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.
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.
Try this little exercise—even if at first, it seems a little daft. It is actually a very powerful way of seeing things differently. 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. Now 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.
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.