My friend Angela is one of the most cheerful people you’ll ever meet. I thought I’d gotten used to her optimism and centeredness … but I was wrong. My amazement returned when, after being diagnosed with breast cancer, she said, “I had great news yesterday; it’s only stage three.
It’s all in how you look at it. The facts are the facts, and aren’t within her control. But her attitude certainly is.
As is yours …
Your perspective is one of the few things in life that is 100% within your control. There’s so much that’s not, so embrace what is!
I’d love to think that in Angela’s situation, I’d choose an equally-positive attitude, though I suspect it wouldn’t come to me as easily. I do know it would be a choice I’d need to consciously commit to every day.
Same goes for the day-to-day, less dire stuff
Stuff happens all the time – good, yucky and mundane. However, that’s not what creates your experience. Your perspective does. (And yes, some days that feels a tad counter-intuitive!)
My client Art, a gifted photographer and videographer, recently transformed the way he experiences his least-favorite activity: film editing.
He loves just about every aspect of producing his extraordinary museum documentaries except editing his video down to a mere fraction of what he shot. So much did he dread the process that it sucked the joy right out of the entire project.
Until he viewed editing through a new lens.
His process hasn’t changed; the work is exactly the same. But when he shifted his mindset from, “I’m beating this piece into submission” to “I’m interacting with the film and together we’re creating the story,” his entire experience changed.
If you’re already exercising your perspective muscle on a daily basis, good for you! But if not, here’s an exercise to get you started.
Choose one situation in your life that stirs up strong feelings: cranky, anxious, lazy, manic, angry, stressed … anything where you’d be thrilled to feel different. It might be a task similar to Art’s editing, a relationship you’re struggling with, or your reaction to your boss’s freakout every time he doesn’t know exactly where you are.
Name your current attitude. No judgment allowed in this step, just a few simple words that describe your view of the situation.
Brainstorm alternatives. The beauty of perspectives is that you make them up; they aren’t facts. In Art’s case the only actual fact was that he had video to be edited.
Move around the room as you consider options. Step outside and peer through the trees. Get a little wacky. How would a four year-year old see the situation? How about from the vantage point of ninety years old? Come up with at least five new options.
Pick your new perspective. It will take some time to replace your old view, and daily practice is critical. You’re creating new brain-tracks. I used to have a consistent mindset of “Oh dear” (actually it was a different four-letter word ;-)) if my day went sideways. It took about three months for my replacement perspective – it’s a learning opportunity – to become automatic. Stick post-its on your bathroom mirror, in your car, on your desk. Journal. Dance around the room three times a day chanting it. Anything that works to keep it top of mind.
Change your thoughts, change your experience. It’s amazing what perspective will do for you!
“It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.” ~ Dale Carnegie, lecturer and author, 1888-1955