The Bigger Picture: The Power of Our Perspective

Last night I had dinner with a friend who recently closed down her business. It was an entrepreneurial venture about which she had fantasized for a decade. A few years ago, she took the plunge. With support from her husband, they raised money, built an app, assembled a team and started to grow. Things were moving: they had customers, revenue, buzz…but not quite enough. They encountered the usual avalanche of business challenges: unreliable contractors, slow build schedules, disgruntled customers, uneven revenue, and ultimately, not enough revenue.

While my friend and her husband were in perfect agreement that revenue needed to grow, his opinion was that the business model had not panned out; the low revenue was evidence that the business did not have legs. Her take? It was just a problem that needed to be solved. She still believed in the concept, saw scattered evidence that the customers they needed were out there, and decided the basic challenge was finding more of those types of customers.

It got me thinking about the power of our perspective. Really, the incredibly immense power of the way we view things. It’s everything…absolutely everything.

We’ve all heard the expressions:
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

And we all know that two people can view the exact same thing in completely different ways. It’s the same event/idea/image, yet completely different depending on who is viewing it. Look no further than the current US President for evidence.

I recently saw this put to work in the simplest ways on a family trip to Japan. Foods labeled “disgusting” were consumed with gusto when my kids saw how they were made with ingredients they were accustomed to. Bedtimes made sense only when it was explained what time it was at home. It wasn’t the actual food that mattered, or even the fact that their bodies felt tired: it was their thoughts about these issues.

While perspective is a concept I have known of and taken for granted for as long as I can remember, I have been thinking more lately about consciously shifting my perspective to help me get where I want to go.

Right before school ended, my youngest daughter was playing with some friends by the pool, and she fell in, fully clothed. She was embarrassed and asked me, “What if Jake tells the other kids at school tomorrow that I fell in?” I decided to shift the story for her: “Go to school and tell your friends what a funny night you had; you jumped in the pool with your clothes on and it was hilarious!!!” Suddenly, the embarrassment vanished and she was excited to share this silly story with friends.

Next week my family is leaving on a cross-country road trip in an RV. It’s been my husband’s dream for years and something that I have resisted. But here we are, and I have been thinking about the smelly bathroom on wheels, the dusty national parks and the very, very close quarters for my rowdy family of five.

But now I am shifting my perspective. I am buying the supplies and setting the ground rules I need to make things comfortable. I am talking to the kids about documenting our travels in our revived family blog, Lollipops & Laughter. I am thinking about the friends we will visit on our travels: shout-out to Nicole Small, one of my very best friends, who I met in business school and with whom we will be staying in Jackson Hole. I am getting excited about planning activities and bonding without the distraction of other people, TV, constant connectedness and big-city life. I am thinking less about the “porta-potty on wheels,” as one friend called it, and more about traditions, making memories and getting back to basics. I am shifting my perspective.

The power of perspective shows up in so many things. My friend Yael quit sugar a few years ago. When I asked her if she misses it, she emphatically replied: “No.” She said that instead of deprivation, she views it as giving a gift to herself.

My son is exceptionally good at coming right home, sitting down and cranking out his homework. When we marvel over his lack of procrastination and self-discipline, he shrugs that he just wants to get it out of the way so he can have fun. In his mind, it’s not discipline – it’s common sense; who wouldn’t want more time to play?

If you have a challenge in front of you, rather than pushing and pushing in the exact same way to get through it, try shifting your perspective. Consider it in a different light and perhaps it will become easy, fun or at least less challenging.

Change your reality just by changing the way you think about it. And then thank the incredible, superhuman power of our perspective.

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