Our Shifting Perspectives

Shifting perspective is always top of mind in my coaching practice. My business card reads New Perspectives on Old Predicaments and my logo is a Necker Cube (seen in the upper right hand corner of this website). The Necker Cube is an optical phenomenon which appears to flip its orientation when you stare at the cube’s Y-junctions (top right and bottom left).  This shift in perspective reminds me of the coaching process.  Providing encouragement to clients to shift from taking things just personally to considering the role, goal and context of their situation

Our perceptions trick us into believing that what we see is how the world actually is rather than a convincing construct of our mind. It is difficult to challenge these perceptions because we are having an actual experience with an entourage of supporting feelings,  Unfortunately our interpretation of why we are having these feelings is at best a partial truth and may even be completely false. Similar to the unreliability of eye witnesses in court cases, we create our own false truth based on past experiences.

There is an abundance of resources on shifting perception out there from scholarly research to bite sized blogs.  Below is a selection and synopsis of resources popular with my clients that I hope you will also find engaging:

The Year of Conquering Negativity
By Leslie Alderman, New York Times, 2017

All humans have a tendency to ruminate on the negative.  It is an evolutionary survival tactic and as a result we over learn from negative experience and under learn from positive ones.  The following strategies were recommended to help retain more positive learning:

  1. Acknowledge negative thoughts and then be a skeptic and challenge them.  What is the worst that can happen and what could you do about it if it did happen?  This self-challenge gets you to unlock from negative thoughts.
  2. Keep a list of your “greatest hits” include why people love you and like being with you in addition to your career accomplishments.  A written reminder of why you are pretty wonderful acts as a counter weight to a self-critical loop.
  3. Breathe deeply and slowly. Make your exhales last twice as long as your inhales. Breathing calms the body by bringing in fresh oxygen and calms the mind by focusing your attention on inhaling and exhaling.

Happiness Is Synthetic. You Have It If You Create It
By Travis Bradberry, Forbes, 2016

This Forbes online series is called “If I only knew …” Sometimes a cautionary tale can be as useful as a success story.  Permanently adopting new habits is hard, while breaking the habits that make you unhappy can actually be much easier. Some common sense bad habits the author suggests eradicating include: limiting your exposure to negative people, isolating yourself, and blaming others for your setbacks. Truly happy people have honed habits that maintain their sense of well-being day in and day out.

Playful People Are At An Advantage
By Medical Express News, 2017

Dr René Proyer from the Institute of Psychology at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) published his research on playfulness in adults in the international journal, Personality and Individual Differences. His study reveals that playfulness in adults is expressed in several very different ways and should be regarded as a positive trait. "When looking for solutions to complex problems, playful adults can easily change perspectives. This allows them to find unusual and novel solutions."

Dr. Proyer has identified four basic types of playful adults: 

  1. Other-directed – Playful people who like to fool around with friends and acquaintances. 
  2. Lighthearted – Playful people who regard their whole life as a type of game. 
  3. Intellectually Playful – These people play with thoughts and ideas – they are able to turn monotonous tasks into something interesting.
  4. Whimsically Playful - These people are amused by small day-to-day observations as well as interested in strange and unusual things.

Use Your Strengths to See Your Blind Spots

What is a blind spot? It is data that your mind doesn't take in, something outside of your field of vision, just like the blind spot in your car's rearview mirror. How can you identify blind spots? One quick way is to make a list of your strengths because blind spots and strengths have a yin/yang relationship.

Blind spots come in two general categories - tasks and people. Task related blind spots involve deadlines, scheduling, systems, and capacity. People related blind spots involve communication, motivation, feedback, and empathy. The yin/yang of strengths and blinds spots never goes away, but learning to be curious about this tension can result in a more accurate assessment of any issue or situation.

For example, if being low key and cooperative is a strength you may also notice that you do not assert your interests until after a conflict occurs, which results in your becoming resentful or disappointed.  Understanding your blind spots will help you see around the corners and avoid interpersonal collisions.

Something More to Think About

The ability to shift perspectives requires more than mental flexibility. Imagining another point of view is a creative act. Flexibility, creativity, and curiosity are traits that allow us to adapt and thrive in unfamiliar situations.

What in the following poem on shifting your perspective resonates most with you?

The range of what we think and do
is limited by what we fail to notice.
And because we fail to notice
there is little that we can do
to change
until we notice
how failing to notice
shapes our thoughts and deeds.
- R.D. Laing, psychiatrist

If you have any comments or questions about this post, you can contact me via email: patwardconsulting@gmail.com or use this contact form to schedule a free 20 minute conversation.

The Necker Cube logo was executed by Tom Jezek, oogliobop@aol.com, graphic artist and dear friend.