Understanding the word perspective is crucial to living the best life possible. Perspective-taking is a critical skill for learning, growing, and maturing.
Without the ability to take on new and different perspectives, your world will be small and restricted. You will be limited in seeing beyond your point of view or considering how someone else may feel or think about something.
Let’s take a closer look at the importance of being able to broaden our perspectives in life.
The meaning of perspective
How often do you take a fresh perspective on something? A new or different perspective can expand your understanding of anything or any subject. Taking another’s perspective helps you better understand them and can grow your relationship.
A few synonyms for perspective include viewpoint, frame of reference, point of view, and way of looking. Perspective-taking is our ability to see beyond our usual thinking to consider what another person may feel or think. This requires us to consider their feelings, emotions, thoughts, and intentions.
Think about it for a moment. Were you to enter any serious relationship, whether romantic, a friendship, or at work, if you can only see from your own perspective, your sight would be minimal! You form bonds with others through understanding and modifying your perspective.
The important thing to remember about perspective is that you grow and mature by uncovering new and different perspectives, learning from them, and broadening your existing ones.
“It’s not what you look at that matters; it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)
Gaining greater perspective
The ability to take more than one perspective on a subject is a wonderful trait to develop. It will provide you with greater insight, more knowledge, and a better understanding.
Recognize when you are alone, there are at least two of you! There is the you that readily expresses yourself, your opinions, and your desires. Then there is the other you, deep inside, often untapped.
Ask yourself how you view something, anything, and write down your answer now. The more important it is, the better.
We will come back to this in a moment.
Tapping into more perspectives through mindfulness
One of the best ways to open yourself to new and different perspectives is through mindfulness. Stick with me here, and you will gain a new perspective on our subject!
Following is a mindfulness technique you can use anytime you want to dig deeper than your first reaction or response to a thought. You will be amazed at how often you can surface something you had not initially considered — a new view or perspective.
Step 1. Take a moment to get in touch with your body. Notice your breathing. Is it shallow? Is it rapid or slow? Take a moment to focus on it. You may wish to inhale slowly and deeply and exhale slowly.
Step 2. Notice any tension in your body. Close and relax your eyes. Release the tension in your eyes and forehead. This is called “lightening” and can be used anytime and anywhere during the day. Just think — “lighten my eyes,” and “lighten my forehead.” You will be amazed at how much tension you carry in them.
Pay attention to your breathing.
Step 3. Now move to your cheeks, mouth, and jaw. Release any tension. Relax. Notice your breathing again. If you are not already breathing deeper and slower, do so now. Pay attention to the air as you inhale and exhale slowly and purposefully. Think calming thoughts. Notice how much lighter your eyes and entire face and head feel.
How is your breathing?
Step 4. If you have time, continue down the rest of your body, noticing tension in your neck and shoulders and relaxing them. You can continue this until you get to your feet and toes if you wish.
When you are ready, ask yourself the same question you wrote earlier. You are now in a better place to see a new or different perspective. You will likely be amazed at how your deeper, internal perspective can differ from an initial, superficial perspective.
“Your reality is as you perceive it to be. So, it is true, that by altering our perception we can alter our reality.” William Constantine (1962-present)
Let me provide a personal example. My question was, “Why am I writing and publishing an article every day?”
My answer was:
- I enjoy pushing myself to see what I can do.
- I need the activity to keep my brain sharp.
That equals two perspectives.
After completing the above mindfulness exercise, my relaxed state perspective is:
- I enjoy learning all I am learning by pushing myself to write.
- I love that I am sharpening my skills.
- In these years of retirement, I am building a legacy that I hope will help many people beyond my lifetime.
- I love to help people grow while growing myself.
- It is a very satisfying part of my life.
- I am thankful I have the time and resources to do it.
As you can see, I have now added several additional perspectives. These help me better understand myself and why I enjoy writing.
I will stop here but know that I continued writing in my relaxed state from the mindfulness exercise.
By the way, the relaxation technique above is extremely useful if you have trouble falling asleep. Moving from muscle to muscle down my body, I rarely make it midway before falling soundly asleep. It works better than sleeping pills for me and has zero side effects!
Gaining more perspectives
Now that you have seen a technique for gaining additional perspectives on your own, let’s take it further and involve someone else.
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is perspective, not the truth.” Marcus Aurelis (121–180 )
Did you know 1 + 1 = 6!
No, this is not some crazy new math, but it is a reality when two people get together. The following quote explains this phenomenon well:
“Whenever two people meet, there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees him, and each man as he really is.” William James (1842–1910)
In other words, your ability to gain more perspectives considerably increases when you are with someone.
When something important arises, such as a major decision, get with one other person, pen in hand, and you will be amazed at how many perspectives you can take. Always ask, “and what else” until you have both exhausted your ideas. Every time I do this, I find viewpoints I would have never considered on my own. Imagine including two or more people in this exercise and the increased potential to find even more perspectives!
The bigger the decision, the more important it is to gain as many perspectives as possible. Don’t forget the mindfulness exercise. You can do it as a group, and it will add value to the results you receive.
The great thing about doing perspective work is it is easy to do on your own or in a group. The end result will always be a greater understanding, more options, and greater wisdom.
I leave you with the wise words of a man from the past to contemplate.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes.” Marcel Proust (1871–1922)
May you have an ever-expanding view of life!