The Power of Perspective
If we can agree that happiness is not a condition of our circumstances and that we are responsible for choosing happiness, then perhaps we can make the claim that happiness is a direct result of our perspective.
“…there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”William Shakespeare, Hamlet
The one thing we have control over in this life is ourselves: our emotions, our actions, our thoughts. In turn, our perspective has control over all those things. Everything in our lives can be altered, whether it be good or bad, based on our perspective.
- We are about to run out the door for work, and spill something on our shirt, making us late. Do we curse and grumble, driving erratically the whole way to work, or do we pause and think, “maybe my mistake just prevented me from a terrible car accident”?
- Last week, I think I picked up 4 pairs of my husband’s socks from different places around the house. 8 socks! I laughed. I felt zero annoyance or resentment towards him. This is because I know he takes his socks off, because he takes his shoes off the second he comes in the house as an effort to take care of our home. His dirty socks were a testament that he appreciates our home.
Our choice to rage or lash out on another person; changing our thoughts from annoyance to appreciation are all examples of how perspective can guide and direct our lives for good.
The Birthplace of this Blog
This blog was born from such a change in perspective. I was angry. Let me correct that: I was angry, and in denial that I was angry. And if someone told me one more time that I was angry, I was going to blow a gasket! (See, totally not angry! :P)
I had to stop and reflect and become determined to be happy in any and all circumstances. Anger is a waste, and I resolved that I would try to alter my perspective with every incident that sought to take away my happiness.
Altering my perspective has performed miracles. I chose to rewrite my struggle with anxiety: empowering my mind to overcome my fears. I felt like the medications I had been prescribed for anxiety over the years were having no positive effects on my body, but plenty of negative ones. I weaned off the medication, started juicing, meditating and practicing yoga daily, but most importantly, I changed my perspective. I refused to be a victim of my circumstances anymore. I refused to allow negative thoughts to hold my emotions hostage.
Don’t let me mislead you that this was easy. It took a long time to:
- Believe that I was capable of this change
- Override a lot of negative messages programmed into my core beliefs
And most importantly, it takes continued vigilance.
This shift in perspective though, was empowering, because I learned about the inextricable link between body and mind. I learned that a healthy body provides the physical support my mental health needs, and my mental–and emotional–health have a profound effect on my body’s physical health.
James Clear illustrates the power of altering our perspective in his amazing book, Atomic Habits. The anecdote he shares is about how Olympic athletes alter their perspective about performance anxiety.
Their bodies feel nervous before their respective events, but when asked, “are you anxious”, they reply, “No, I’m excited”. In reality, the two feelings feel physically identical. But, altering your perspective from anxiety to excitement shifts your mindset from negative to positive. In turn, that positive mindset then empowers your body to be successful.
Simple, But Not Easy
There is so much peace that can come into our lives if we commit to always pause and explore an alternative perspective before acting or empowering negative emotions to take hold of us. This commitment is simple, but not easy. It requires humility and charity, but has the blessing of creating great empathy.
We’ve all experienced being mad at someone and then learning the reasons behind their actions. Our perspective is changed. BUT, then we are required to be humble enough to let go of our anger, and forgive the other, if necessary.
Or, we can choose to get new understanding and continue to perpetuate our feelings of “righteous” indignation.
Either way, our perspective is changed—are we going to fight it and create disharmony within ourselves, or are we going to be charitable enough to allow the change in perspective to also change our hearts and actions?
A Change in Perspective for the Worse
When we think of changing our perspective, we often think of doing so in a positive way. But, we can also “corrupt our perspective” or alter it for the worse.
We are all familiar with the idea of children being taught racism. As an innocent, they see another person as simply another human, until their perspective is corrupted.
We can think of families, friendships, schools all as places of safety and security, until that perspective is corrupted by an opposing force.
Negative perspectives breed cynicism, selfishness, and fear. But, negative perspectives come to us from an outside force.
It is the same with maintaining a corrupted, negative perspective. We are allowing an outside force to hold dominion over our minds. We are choosing to be acted upon.
Act or Acted Upon
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of 12 Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaks frequently about the principle of acting or being acted upon. This is a life lesson I am still in the process of learning, and teaching my own children.
It is the difference between saying “he made me angry” and “I am choosing to be angry because of his actions”.
It is taking responsibility for our own actions, yes, but it’s also recognizing that we always and innately possess a right to choose in every circumstance.
I see this Life Lesson: Act or Acted Upon, as a derivative of Perspective. Do we choose to be acted upon and allow someone’s actions or someone’s negative perspective alter our own? Or do we believe we are free to act of our own accord and continually empower our own perspective?
As I stated at the beginning, perspective has control over everything in our lives: our emotions, our actions, our thoughts. If we choose to be acted upon, we are surrendering control of our perspective, and therefore control over the rest of our lives.
The “Right” Perspective
I think the easiest way to lose our grasp on the “right perspective”, is at the hand of trials that come into our lives. And come, they will. But like all else, we can choose to be miserable from those negative experience, or we can choose to see them as an opportunity for learning and growth. Do we let our trials define us or refine us?
And like altering our perspective, embracing our trials and allowing them to refine us is simple in concept, but not easy in practice.
Embracing our trials is a life lesson—or a life practice, rather. All these things take practice:
- Adopting a commitment to pause and explore an alternative perspective before acting
- Actively reinforcing positive perspectives and reprogramming our negative perspectives
- Being charitable and humble enough to allow for a change in perspective
But, I assure you, from the witness of my own life, they will bless your life with increased harmony, health, and happiness.
Start today: slow down, reflect instead of react, act instead of allowing yourself to be acted upon, and change your perspective.