Opinion - See Life in a New Way

Bill Abbate

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Have you ever experienced a complete change of mind about something? Most of us experience this at different times in our lives. It often comes from gaining a new perspective, which can be invaluable for our growth as a person and a compassionate human being.

You will often hear the word paradigm shift when a big change in perspective occurs. I first heard of this while reading Steven Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People when released around 1990. While familiar with the word paradigm, I had never heard of a shift before. You can listen to his story here: Covey paradigm shift story on YouTube. It is a short, compelling story and well worth the listen.

One of my first paradigm shifts happened soon after my daughter was born. Before her birth, I would watch TV and see the little children suffering in the Vietnam War, yet the images had little effect on me. After her birth, my heart would break at the very thought of those same innocent children suffering so much. It was as though an empathy switch suddenly turned on in my head.

Shifting perspectives

While most shifts in our thinking are not as abrupt as a paradigm shift, everyone experiences them throughout their lives. These shifts usually broaden or change our perspectives. A fact in life is there is nearly always more than one perspective you can take about anything. When you think you have thought about a subject thoroughly, another viewpoint emerges that changes or adds to your current perspective(s)!

These perspective shifts are crucial to our growth. Each new perspective opens your mind to seeing more possibilities, enhancing and expanding your understanding of reality while often unearthing opportunities.

Have you ever met someone who enlarged your thinking, no matter how small? It happens all the time in conversations and meetings. How does it happen? When you hear a different point of view, you will either accept it as is, accept it in part or reject it outright. If you understand it even a little, your thinking shifts and grows.

Asking someone their viewpoints on a subject is the easiest way to broaden your perspective—provided you keep an open mind. An example of this can happen when you look at political issues, which can be polarizing. You may be absolutely positive that your opinion is the only one that is correct or accurate. Yet another person may have completely contrary views. The question here is, are you open to hearing them?

That’s one of the great things about the human race—we are not all clones, nor should we be. Each of us has unique experiences, backgrounds, trials, and tribulations that have made us who we are. Imagine a world without the variety that differences in people create. It would be very boring, to say the least.

Learning from others

Try a little experiment. Find someone with a different position on a subject. Ask questions about their views by being genuinely curious, sincere, and nonthreatening. The only agenda is to learn, not convince them of anything. Don’t try to persuade them to your viewpoints; simply become curious and ask sincere questions about the subject and their thoughts on it. Then listen. You may be surprised by what you learn.

I once worked with a man named Joe who had different religious views than my friend Tom (one was Catholic, the other Protestant). Whenever Joe and Tom discussed religion, the conversation would grow heated and contentious. I recall one of them often becoming so frustrated with the other that he would physically turn red in the face, his veins ready to pop!

Rather than get tangled up in their conversations, I became curious about their beliefs. I started asking questions about what they believed and how they had come to those beliefs. It amazed me how well they each knew the Scriptures. We had some fascinating conversations. I discovered their beliefs more closely aligned than I had initially thought. Each of us had a perspective shift helping us better understand one another.

The three of us can speak openly about our beliefs to this day. We now tend to focus on what we have in common rather than on what we differ. Furthermore, my entire perspective on what I thought I knew about their faith changed, and I have developed a profound respect for each man.

Since life is about relationships, one of the great things about asking questions of others or yourself is they can open your mind. As your mind opens, you begin seeing new and fresh perspectives, allowing you to understand more of what exists. As you understand more, you will see more possibilities, which will lead to greater opportunities.

How to find new perspectives

In addition to getting other people’s perspectives, it is rather easy to dig into your own thoughts and develop different perspectives by simply asking yourself questions. Professional coaches do this all the time with clients.

Start by writing down your initial viewpoint on a subject. Then shoot for at least six to eight additional views. Begin by asking yourself questions like: “What’s another viewpoint?”, “What am I leaving out?”, “What would (name of person) say about this?”, “What am I missing?” “How could I be wrong?”, “What else?” and so on. The trick is to examine the subject from as many viewpoints as possible, greatly enhancing your overall perspective on a given issue. Try this with anything on your mind, especially something on which you have a strong opinion. See what happens.

Your subject could be a person, an object, a place, a philosophy, or anything at all. Is it worth examining, broadening, and perhaps changing your perspective? Only if you want greater possibilities and opportunities in your life!

To make this exercise even more powerful, do it with someone you care about and trust. When I do this, I am often amazed at the perspectives the other person comes up with in addition to my own.

Final thoughts

Why not examine your views of the difficult times we are in to broaden your perspectives. With so much cultural change and uprising occurring, not to mention pandemics and wars, it is the perfect time to uncover new perspectives and seize new opportunities!

Work to develop your understanding that your life is constrained only by the limited perspectives you hold. Free yourself and remove these limits by doing the above exercise. Why not give it a try and begin broadening your mind today? You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing so!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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