By Talisa Ernstmann MA, ACC
I remember when my daughter got her first pair of glasses in the fourth grade. She put them on and said, “Mommy I can see all the leaves on the trees!” The glasses had totally changed the way she saw things. This is the definition of perspective—“the way we see something.”
Metaphorically, we think of perspective as how we view certain life events, situations, or happenings in our lives. And let’s face it, we often seem to view them in a negative way or we get “stuck” in a particular perspective. Because the brain is known to have negativity bias (originally designed to keep us from being eaten by a saber tooth tiger), it is always scanning the environment for potential threats. Very few of us have jobs or work in environments that pose on-going physical threats; however, many of us work in environments where we perceive a host of psychological threats. The boss is having a bad day – we better make ourselves scarce! Or the customer is always changing his or her mind, we better do whatever she wants!
Whatever the issue, we choose to adopt a particular perspective such as “this is bad” or “this will never change.” When we find ourselves stuck in a certain perspective, it may be helpful to examine it from several different viewpoints or perspectives.
Recently I had a client who was stuck in the perspective of “I really screwed this up.” She felt she had gone into a meeting unprepared and let her boss down. We talked about her perspective and named that perspective the “I‘m a failure” perspective. Then we looked at the same situation from various other perspectives and how they may have framed the same situation:
- The perspective of her 5 year old daughter: “Mommy did an awesome job”
- The perspective of her favorite cartoon character (Mighty Mouse): “Let’s fix this”
- The perspective of her boss: “This was a great learning experience”
- The perspective of her cat: “Who cares”
Once we fully explored some other perspectives (crazy as they were), she decided (key word) to adopt the “learning experience” perspective. This allowed her to let go of her “I’m a failure” perspective and decide to view the situation differently.
Is there a situation where you have adopted a certain perspective and are stuck? How about trying on some different ones and then choose the want you want to live in – the one that might actually serve you better!