"Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth." -- Marcus Aurelius
"It's all a matter of perspective."
How often have you heard that? But do you really get that it's all, I mean ALL, a matter of perspective? And that, if you want to create health, wealth and happiness in your life, being able to change your perspective is one of the most powerful tools you can possess?
I'll show you some simple ways to activate that powerful tool, but first some basics:
1. What you see is not the truth, not reality. What we see is based on a number of things: our beliefs, our experience, even our blood sugar level or the mood we happen to be in. Something happens and we all create our own "spin" on it. If you stick seven people in a room to watch The Matrix, they'll end up with 7 totally different explanations and interpretations of the plot and characters. Siblings within a family will "remember" the very same incidents quite differently.
"There are lots of people who mistake their imagination for their memory." -- Josh Billings
2. Events or circumstances are not good or bad, they're neutral. It's our perspective and how we interpret those things that makes them positive or negative. Take winter: some people love to roll around in the snow and others hate the cold. But winter itself isn't good or bad. Even something as "bad" as smoking cigarettes can be "good." For example, there are studies out there that say long term smokers are virtually immune from neurological diseases such as Parkinson's!
3. It's our interpretations that shape our responses to life and our futures. Circumstances and events don't shape us. We're shaped by the meaning or spin we give to those circumstances and events. One adopted child may feel special and particularly loved because she was "chosen" by her parents. Another may focus on feeling abandoned by her biological parents. Their different interpretations will lead to completely different responses to life.
"The only thing you sometimes have control over is perspective. You don't have control over your situation. But you have a choice about how you view it." -- Chris Pine
4. We have the ability to change the meaning we've given to an event. We can't always change what happens to us but we can change how we think and feel about it. In Neuro Linguistic programming NLP, we call this "reframing." Many of us reframe our experiences naturally, for example, finding the humor in an awkward encounter or finding the silver lining in a tough situation.
5. When we adopt more empowering interpretations, we're able to act more powerfully and respond more positively to life. Imagine the dad of a rebellious teenager. If he interprets his child's actions as disrespectful, self-centered and maybe the result of his own poor parenting, communication will likely be tense and non-productive. But if he recognizes rebellion as his child's misguided attempt to become more independent and self-sufficient, communication can stay open and positive -- even while the kid is getting grounded!
In my NLP trainings, I teach students a variety of specific techniques to reframe the meanings they've given to events, especially interpretations given to past events that now block their growth and sabotage their ability to achieve what they desire. Through reframing, they remove the barriers of old, rigid perceptions, gaining flexibility and choice in how they can act and respond going forward.
You can practice a version of reframing using the following simple steps:
Step one is to become aware of your perspective and ask the question, "Does this perspective serve me and who I'm becoming?"
For example, it might seem reasonable to blame your financial situation on a rotten economy and those Wall Street manipulators, but does that perspective really empower you to get where you want to go? You might be able to "prove" that your ex took advantage of you and treated you poorly, but will that help you create a more positive relationship the next time around? Keep in mind that your perspective on an event is not the truth. It's just the meaning you've chosen.
Next, ask yourself, "How can I see this differently?"
If you're firmly attached to your old spin on an event, this may take some persistence and creativity! Sit down with a pad and pen and brainstorm several other possible perspectives. Some viewpoints may fit and some may seem too farfetched, but stay loose with this exercise.
"Some people made it through the Great Recession pretty well. If they can do it, I can figure it out too."
"It's a good thing I lost all that money. It will inspire me to find a career that's more fun and lucrative."
"That was a great lesson in what not to do with my money! Now I have the opportunity to discover better options."
"Fortunately, I only lost money - not my health, my family or my friends. I have what's important and can re-build my finances."
If you're feeling really stuck with your old perspective, ask a friend to weigh in and help you see that circumstance differently. The objective is not to come up with a rose-colored glasses interpretation that feels unrealistic to you. But to come up with a new interpretation that feels empowering, that helps you move forward to achieve what you desire.
"It's not only moving that creates new starting points. Sometimes all it takes is a subtle shift in perspective, an opening of the mind, an intentional pause and reset, or a new route to start to see new options and new possibilities." -- Kristin Armstrong
To your TOTAL empowerment!
Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of The Empowerment Partnership. Author of several books, Dr. Matt has trained thousands of students to be totally empowered using Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Huna, Mental Emotional Release® (MER®)therapy, and Empowerment Fit, a program that incorporates targeted mind/body/spirit practices to create optimal physical fitness and health. Download his free NLP class. For more about Dr. Matt, visit his blog at www.DrMatt.com.
For more articles by Dr. Matt, click here.