Inside: Perspective: No Matter What It Can Always Be Worse.
Have you ever had what you felt was the absolute worst day of your life? I’ve had a few of them in my life but I always seem to remember a day when my wife and I were going to close on our first apartment. We weren’t married yet but were soon to “tie the knot” and were securing our apartment where we’d live after the wedding.
It had snowed pretty substantially the night before so there were numerous high snow mounds on the side of the road. We came off the exit ramp where I’d be making a right turn. I stopped and started looking to my left. I saw the road was clear and hit the gas pedal.
The only problem was that the person in front of me hadn’t gone yet as they didn’t have as clear a view as I did of oncoming traffic. I smashed directly into their trunk. The husband and wife got out of the car, both dressed impeccably well. I opened my door and began looking at the damage. Both cars were banged up pretty bad and the first thought that ran through my head was “we’re not going to get our apartment”.
The man proceeded to tell me that their car was brand new and had less than 1,000 miles on in. If that didn’t make me feel terrible enough he then proceeded to tell me that they were coming home from his mother’s funeral. “Kill me now,” I thought. His wife, much like mine, said “everyone’s OK, and that’s why it’s called an accident and why we have insurance”. It was careless on my part and I didn’t set out to crash a complete stranger’s car and mine that day.
Luckily both of the women in our lives had perspective into the situation.
Perspective is defined as how we see a situation or an attitude toward something, a point of view. However, people’s perspectives on situations differ greatly. I often use the meme below as an example of perspective.
Perspective is important for adults as much as it is for children. One of my favorite comedians, Brian Regan, has a great bit that involves perspective. It centers around being in the park and watching a family’s reaction as one of the children lets go of his balloon and screams as it floats away. One parent leans down and tells the child it’s no big deal, there’s no reason to be so upset, it’s just a balloon, we can get you another one.
Regan suggests if the shoe were on the other foot and the father took his wallet out and all of a sudden it started floating away. You can watch the clip here but you get my point.
To the child that is the WORST possible thing that could happen at that moment. For the adult, they think about everything they just lost and the hassle of having to cancel all their credit cards, get a new license, etc. Both are not the end of the world and truly worse things could be happening.
Many times we confuse perspective with perception. Perception is the state of being or process of becoming aware of something through the senses or a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something. Perceptions are typically built over time through our beliefs and values.
Changing your perceptions of a situation can change your perspective
As an example, maybe you’re the type of person who believes that all successful people are perfect. With this rationale, if you did something that was far from perfect you would have the perception that you were a failure. But what if you changed your perception of what success meant to you? A simple change of perception could change your perspective.
My wife constantly keeps me in check when it comes to perception as this is admittedly a struggle at times. Anger often clogs reasonable thinking and clouds the ability to see the entire situation. As does self-perception. My viewpoints and perspective stem from 50 years of living and experience. That’s not to say my perspective on certain issues hasn’t changed over the years.
Thankfully it has as I’m constantly evolving as a person. Your self-perception becomes an important tool if you want to improve yourself. It’s the classic glass half full or half empty conundrum.
Can you shift someone’s perspective?
It’s certainly possible to shift a persons’ perspective on an issue. To do so, it’s important to understand why they feel the way they do. What are the perceptions and beliefs that are giving them a particular perspective? Once those perceptions are clear you can begin to change their perspective. Heed my warning when I say that people hold onto their beliefs and perceptions tightly so be careful in how you approach them.
In these politically and racially charged times the question of shifting perspective comes up often. To change someone’s mind (perspective) you have to present more than just the facts. The facts are always important but you also need to get involved with their beliefs. If a person doesn’t agree with you it’s not because they’re right and you’re wrong. It’s because you both have different beliefs. To see things from the other side you need to show some empathy.
It can always be worse
As bad as you have it there is ALWAYS someone who is worse off than you. Take the recent COVID-19 pandemic for example. Sure it absolutely stunk to be stuck in the house from March until July, quarantined from doing anything other than shopping for food or necessities. It caused severe depression for people, so many lost their jobs and businesses and we are still reeling from the effects.
In my world, my wife was furloughed from her job but we were able to collect unemployment for her and luckily I am doing well enough to help us get by. We had just restructured our mortgage before the pandemic which saved us money. My wife has received several offers for new positions once summer is over and may be able to get back into working with children which is her favorite thing to do. Making less money was not fun but it could have been worse.
We could have both lost our jobs or one of us could have contracted the illness. Instead, we were stuck inside, spending time with each other every night, something we rarely get to do anymore with our busy schedules. Setbacks are a part of life and no matter what you do they will always be there. Be grateful for what you have and not jealous or angry about what you don’t.
Take a moment every now and again to imagine what it must be like walking in someone else’s shoes. You may find that your struggles pale in comparison to theirs.
Though the difference between perception and perspective seems visible on the surface they are closely intertwined. Learn how to change your (or others) perception, and you can change almost anything.
Some people see the cup as half empty. Some people see the cup as half full. I see the cup as too large – George Carlin
People only see what they are prepared to see – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Have you ever had a change of perspective? Comment below.