How often do you change your perspective to get over yourself?

Today is May 17 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you change your perspective to get over yourself?” For today’s reflection let’s start off with a quick question: is Earth the largest planet in terms of size? Some people may say yes; but they would be wildly incorrect. The order of the planets in terms of size from smallest to largest is: Mercury, Mars, Venus, Earth, Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, and Jupiter. Earth is the fourth smallest. They are four planets much bigger than our own. If your perspective is that Earth is the largest planet, despite the scientific proof backed up with centuries of evidence, how successful do you think you will be at navigating the chaos or practicing the art of living well? If you lack the capacity to change your perspective, it will be difficult to translate even the smallest of dreams into reality.

The etymology of the word perspective stems from medieval Latin perspectiva (science of optics), and from perspect (looked at closely). In short, perspective’s original meaning refers back to looking. Those that navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well look around at a problem, issue, or situation. They assess the landscape, ask as many questions as possible, identify various solutions, and then select one to move forward. Navigating the chaos and practicing the art of living well requires one to have as many perspectives as possible. Such an approach allows one to look at a situation from different optical views. Would you really want to approach a situation merely from your limited perspective? And rest assured, your perspective, no matter how important, smart, or successful you are, is indeed limited.

But one’s perspective on a topic is incredibly difficult to change because inertia is the path of least resistance. Inertia, or thinking the same way as one always does, require no effort, and people, sadly, are lazy. Changing perspectives, looking at a situation from multiple views, considering the thoughts of others, all requires one to think hard. As discussed in other Navigate the Chaos posts, thinking hard is hard work and that is why so few people engage in the thinking required to translate one dream after another into reality.

On the difficulty associated with people changing their perspective, neuroscience researcher Joe Esperanza stated, “We’ve in fact conditioned ourselves to believe all sorts of things that aren’t necessarily true - and many of these things are having a negative impact on our health and happiness.” As Lynn Taylor wrote in a February 6, 2020 Psychology Today article Esperanza suggests people are addicted to their beliefs and emotions of their past. This addiction creates the perspective that “people see their beliefs as truths, not as ideas they can change.” People can, however, change their perspective. In fact, it is strongly encouraged to do so if one wants to practice the art of living well.

To that end, researchers Aneta Przepiorka and Malgorzata Sobol-Kwapinska published a 2021 paper entitled “People with Positive Time Perspective are More Grateful and Happier” and found that gratitude mediated the association between time perspective and life satisfaction. The authors found that people have one of three different time orientations: past, present, or future. People with a past time orientation exist in a world of memories and experiences, whether pleasant or traumatic. Those living in the present are consumed by current events, without considering past experiences or future consequences.

Future-oriented people often fail to notice present-time pleasures. Przepiorka and Sobol-Kwapinska concluded that a future time perspective, mediated by gratitude, is related to life satisfaction, and being able to set goals, anticipate, and plan ahead is important to achieving a sense of well-being. They point out that a future time perspective has been linked with life satisfaction and subjective health, as well as individual motivation in areas including education, work, and environment. They recognize that a future orientation has the potential to yield many types of beneficial outcomes and also increases happiness through promoting gratefulness for what we expect in the future.

  • How often do you change your perspective?

  • How often do you recognize the need to change your perspective?

  • How often does someone ask you to help them develop a new perspective?

  • Are you so addicted to your beliefs that you are unable to change them?

  • Are you past, preset, or future oriented?

  • What one thing can you do today to help yourself develop a future orientation so that you can increase your life satisfaction?