Harvey Mackay

The Power of Perspective

A woman hired a bricklayer to build a wall outside her upscale home. Talking with him while he worked, she was amazed to discover that he was the brother of a brilliant concert violinist whom she’d recently seen perform.

“Oh, you’re so lucky to have such a talented brother,” she said. Then, fearing the man might misinterpret her remarks as being critical of his manual labor job, she added: “Of course, we can’t all be equally talented.”

“You said it, lady,” the man responded. “Take my brother; when it comes to doing something important like building a house, he’s useless.”

And that is what we mean about how to put things in perspective.

Perspective is the ability to understand what is important and what isn't, and the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance.

After frequent requests for an explanation of his theory of relativity that would be comprehensible to lay people, Albert Einstein devised a statement that read: “An hour sitting with a nice girl on a park bench passes like a minute, but a minute sitting on a hot stove seems like an hour.”

A person’s perspective is the way they see something. It might be based on experience or personality. But it doesn’t necessarily mean their perspective is right or wrong. Putting things in perspective gives you a clearer, more accurate picture of the situation.

But YOUR perspective may be wildly different from the next person’s.

The best way I know to keep things in perspective is to take a second look, through another person’s eyes. What is their point of view? Why is it different from mine? What would I feel like if I were in their shoes?

We are selfish by nature. Sometimes we think that our perspective is the only way to look at a situation. Not true -- stepping away from your thoughts and feelings, and thinking of the other person’s point of view may broaden your perspective and make you more aware of your actions and their consequences.

Dr. Phil McGraw of TV fame uses the analogy of a pancake. He says: “No matter how flat you make a pancake, it’s still got two sides. One of the greatest limitations we face as human beings is that we look at the world from our own subjective perspective -- especially in situations that directly involve us. Anytime there’s something personal at stake, you’ve got a built-in bias ... If you can develop the ability to really see through another person’s eyes, you’ll be tapping into an incredibly powerful tool for managing your life. And it’s a skill you can cultivate -- just like flipping a pancake.”

Another approach I use for keeping things in perspective is to search out a third or fourth or fifth party. I believe three heads are better than two and five heads are better than four. That’s why I have a “kitchen cabinet” to run things by. Sometimes you are too close to a situation or don’t have a good feel. You can often benefit from more advice.

Of course, one possible result is that you may have to admit that you are wrong. You may have misjudged a person or situation. Don’t let pride and ego get in the way. Don’t let yourself get too attached to your perspective. It is better to get things right and learn from the experience.

Keeping things in perspective has a special place at work. A bad day at the office can easily snowball into a bad week or a bad month, if you allow it. One defeat can damage confidence, leading to another letdown or a negative outlook. Be on your guard! Don’t let one disappointment or failure cloud your perspective.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson offers this advice: “When life tells you no, find a way to keep things in perspective. That doesn’t make the painful moments any less painful. But it does mean you don’t have to live forever in the pain. You don’t have to live forever in that 'no.' Because if you know what you’re capable of, if you’re always prepared, and you keep things in perspective, then life has a way of turning a 'no' into a 'yes.'”

Mackay’s Moral: Never underestimate the power of perspective. It can change everything.

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