“I kind of quit surfing when I got out of high school, but then a few years ago I started to take it up again. I’m not an expert by any means, but it’s so wonderful to get out in the ocean and get a different perspective on things.” —Jeff Bridges
It’s part of the human condition that we come upon challenging moments when it feels as though the people in our lives—or life itself—is beating us down. Or perhaps there is a specific aspect of a situation or relationship that is showing up as a persistent source of discomfort. At these times, we lose objectivity and become immersed in our own myopic experiencing of the circumstances. Emotional pain has a way of clouding our vision. The suffering can be compounded when we react with emotional charge, without the benefit of time and distance to balance the way we see things. The first step in deciding what to do with something is choosing how to be with it. Perspective can be defined as the interrelation in which a subject—or its parts—is viewed in it’s context. Bringing choice to the way we hold our experiences, releases us from victimhood and hands us back our personal power.
As Byron Katie says, “Don’t believe everything you think.” So how do we change the way we perceive things? Here are 3 ways:
1. Change Your Geography
Changing our external environment can shift our internal landscape. Going to a yoga class, taking a weekend out of town, or even just stepping away from our desk for moment can not only divert our attention, but the visceral feeling of a new environment can cause a somatic shift in consciousness. How many times have you said, “Let me look at this from a different angle?” Taken literally, it means moving your body to a different location to see what things look like from there. Adding the element of physical exercise draws energy from the mind to the body—breaking up fixated thought patterns, and opening up pathways to a new perspective.
2. Try on a Role Model
We all have people in our lives who we admire. Maybe they have qualities we find admirable or maybe it’s the sum total of how they show up in the world. When we are struggling with a situation in our own lives, it can be a great exercise to try on the persona of someone we would like to emulate. Ask yourself, “What would the Dalai Llama do?” Whether its your sister, your teacher, or Meryl Streep, borrowing the consciousness of someone we look up to and applying it to our own situation can fast track a shift.
3. Pull Focus on the Big Picture
When we are in the thick of a situation, we tend to be focused on the intensity of our own personal experience. Taking a moment to balance the micro with the macro can be like a breath of fresh air. “How does this moment fit within the larger context of my life? What feels important about this? What values are being challenged?” are all questions which have a perspective shift built into them. Another way to reframe is to ask yourself what you would like to say about this moment when you look back at it five years from now. Considering the context of our personal life history is often just the change in perspective we are looking for.