Have you noticed how your view of things changes over time? In grade school, teachers were adults you had to look up to (unless they were seriously short.) As an adult, you view them differently. They are no longer that imposing authoritative figure you once knew. Why? Because your perspective has changed, and you now view them as regular people.
The Oxford Languages dictionary defines perspective as “a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.” You can also say it is the way you see or understand something. There are two ways each of us experience our perspectives. They are that we:
- Change or shift our point of view.
- Gain multiple viewpoints about one thing.
Let’s look at each.
Changing your perspective
A change in perspective can be about something minor or significant. For example, how much do you know about past American Presidents? If you dig into their life, learn more about them, and read a biography or two, I promise you will view them differently.
Each President was exceptional in many ways, yet you will undoubtedly experience a change in perspective by learning who they were, what they thought, and how they behaved. As you get to know them better, they will no longer only be a “President” to you. This shift is true for anyone you learn more about.
Another change in perspective happens to many of us as we mature. To mature is to shift away from allowing others to be responsible for you so you can be responsible for yourself. This shift is natural because your perspective changes from a child’s to an adult’s view.
Shifts or changes in our perspectives happen throughout life due to developing a different understanding of someone or something.
Have you ever experienced changing your view about something after giving it more thought or by being influenced by someone else’s position? If not, live a little longer; it will happen to you more than once!
“The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective.” Al Neuharth (1924–2013)
Gaining multiple perspectives
Have you ever met someone who enlarged your thinking? It happens all the time in conversations and meetings. How? By hearing a different point of view. When you hear another point of view, you can accept it in part, in whole, or dismiss it. Your perspective can grow whenever you see (understand) something you have not seen before.
It is possible to have multiple perspectives about someone or something. Doing so requires opening your mind and being willing to learn.
“What we see depends mainly on what we look for.” John Lubbock (1834–1913)
An easy way to gain more than one perspective is to get input from others with different viewpoints.
For example, let’s say your only perspective about education is it helps people and society. That is one point of view, but what else can you add to enhance your understanding of education? Let’s develop a short list of additional perspectives you might take on this subject:
- Education is good for us and our society.
- Education is more important today than in the past.
- Without a reasonable education, finding a job may be difficult.
- The more educated you are, the greater your chance of making a better living.
- Education helps you gain experience.
- Those who have little or no education can struggle to get by.
Education is far more than a single “thing.” Does it make sense that having multiple points of view expands and enhances your understanding? What perspectives would you add to the above list?
Now, let’s enhance our perspective about something that hits home — your job. How do you see it if you have one? A few perspectives about my job that come to mind include:
- It allows me to make a living to care for my family.
- It is stressful at times, but overall, I enjoy it.
- It has built my self-worth, giving me a feeling of contributing something of value to the world.
- It has helped me make some great friendships.
- That the company’s values align with mine.
- It gives me time to think during my drive to and from work.
- It inspires me to keep learning and gaining more experience that will help me if I ever want or need another job.
- It has helped me see places and do things I never would have otherwise.
Those are only a few perspectives I take about my job. If I only maintain the perspective that my job is work and little more, I would not have the appreciation for what I do to make a living and would miss out on how it adds to my life.
Broadening your perspectives deepens your understanding, leading to more wisdom, enhanced relationships, improved attitude, and many other good things that will serve you well.
“People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them.” Epictetus (c.50-c.130 AD)
Gaining more perspectives is an easy and worthwhile pursuit
One of the simplest ways to broaden your perspective on anything in life is to ask someone for their viewpoints. You will find a significant number of views about almost everything in life. These different viewpoints are part of what makes each of us unique. The main thing required of you is to keep an open mind.
An example is when we look at political issues, which can be polarizing. We may be positive that our opinion is the only one that is correct or accurate. Yet another person may have contrary views.
Because everyone has unique experiences, backgrounds, trials, and tribulations, they often develop different perspectives about politics or any other subject.
Find someone with a different view or position on a hot topic, such as politics, and ask questions about their views in a genuinely curious, sincere, non-threatening way. Do it to learn, not to convince them of anything. Don’t try to persuade them to your viewpoints. Simply be curious, asking sincere questions about the subject and their thoughts. Then listen.
Don’t say a word until they are through talking. Keep silent for a good bit after they finish, as they will likely fill the quietness with more of their thoughts. There is an excellent chance you will be surprised by what you learn.
As you practice asking questions and listening more, you open your mind to new understanding and fresh perspectives. These additional perspectives allow you to see more possibilities, leading to greater opportunities.
In addition to getting other people’s perspectives, it is relatively easy to dig into your thoughts to develop more viewpoints. All you need do is ask yourself the right questions. Coaches do this all the time with clients.
Follow the method below for yourself or anyone else:
- Start by writing your initial viewpoint on a subject.
- Now, shoot for at least six to eight additional views.
- Ask questions such as “What’s another viewpoint?”, “What am I leaving out?”, “What would (name of person) say about this?”, “How could I be wrong?”, “What else?” etc.
- Record each additional perspective that comes into view.
- Be sure to pause after asking each question. It is amazing how often something else will pop up when you don’t rush through this exercise.
A safe place to start practicing this exercise is with a family member or friend. The objective is to unearth as many viewpoints as possible to enhance your perspective on a given issue. Try it with anything on your mind, but especially something you have a strong opinion about. See what happens. Your subject could be a person, an object, a place, a philosophy, or anything at all. What can you gain by examining, broadening, and changing your perspectives? How about greater possibilities and opportunities in your life?!
“You must look within for value, but must look beyond for perspective.” Denis Waitley (1933-present)
In summary, by opening your mind to fresh and new perspectives, you expand your knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, increasing your ability to see more possibilities while enhancing your life overall.
Why not give it a try? There is an excellent chance you will gain much in your life by doing so!