The skill that I have paid the most attention to in my role as a trainer, life coach, and self-aware adult is that of perspective. I understand that there are always two sides (or sometimes more) to a story and usually the reality is somewhere in the middle. Conversely I also know that the grass is really never as green as it seems from the “other side.” Changing your perspective is the single best way to successfully change that which you are unhappy with, whether it be your body, a relationship, a job, or just how your emotions respond to stressful situations.
In the sequel to Alice in Wonderland (Through The Looking Glass) everything she knew about life, and even about Wonderland, was upside-down or backwards. But by embracing that different perspective (instead of fighting it), Alice was able to overcome obstacles and get back home with a new and better understanding (i.e., perspective) of her life.
Have you ever noticed that something that causes you great emotional stress doesn’t affect others the same way? Is that because they’re better than you? No, it’s because they simply have a different perspective. Same goes if you handle some stresses easily while your friends rage about. You’re not better, you just have a perspective in this area that differs than theirs and causes less strife.
If you are unhappy with the condition of your body (or any of the other life-issues I mentioned above) and no matter what you’ve tried (working out or dieting), nothing has successfully budged that excess fat, then perhaps it is time you changed your perspective. As an example, in some other countries, women with higher body fat are deemed beautiful and/or a symbol of a successful or wealthy family. These women have a different perspective about their bodies than we do in the U.S., that’s all there is to it.
So how do you change your perspective? One of the best ways is to de-personalize your view of the situation. In other words, take yourself out of the equation and look at it as if you were counseling a friend who was in your place. This allows you to see all aspects of the situation, not just what your emotional state focuses on.
An easy way to do this is to write yourself a letter, assuming the role of a friend. Pretend that the YOU are writing to is a friend who is in need of support and encouragement, but most importantly – CLARITY. Diagnose the situation via the facts, and look at how other situations in this “friend’s” life could contribute to how they’re handling the current situation. You’ll be surprised at how much clarity you find when looking at a problem that isn’t YOUR problem. After all, most of us (especially women) love to offer advice to our friends to solve their issues, yet fail to follow that same advice when it comes to ourselves.
Try this trick the next time you are frustrated or angry that something in your life just isn’t working to your liking. Take a deep breath and help your “friend” feel better and clearer about the situation. In the end, by seeing through the looking glass, I suspect you’ll find that your life is not as bad, or as stuck, as you thought.
In my role as a life strategies coach I regularly utilize a few choice analogies to help my clients cope with and solve issues by seeing their situation from another perspective. Stepping back and changing your perspective on an issue or problem is the best way to remove emotional triggers and baggage which in turn allows you to find the best solution.
Today’s blog, while it might seem rather heady, is designed to help those of you who are feeling the stress of the last quarter creep into your bodies. Many of my friends and clients suffer from stress induced headaches, illnesses, and depression this time of year because they panic that goals set in January have still not been met, and/or the kids and their schooling require more attention, and/or the expensive holidays are around the bend, etc.
Here are my three favorite and most used analogies to help you gain perspective on a goal not met; relationships stuck in detrimental cycles; and the ever-present pressure of time ticking away from your life. So look at it this way:
Swim upstream, find exhaustion; float on the current, and find dry land.
Often we get so emotionally focused on achieving a goal even when things aren’t working, or an expectation or what we felt we deserved, and what is just, that we plow through muddy waters swimming against the current and downpour of debris just to make our point (risking drowning in the process). But imagine if you simply stopped fighting and floated along with the current. You would undoubtedly eventually be lead (or easily steer yourself), towards the safety of the shore, and to your further benefit, often what was upstream finds its way downstream as well. In other words the issue could resolve on its own or be revisited another time when there are less impedances or emotions are calmer.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.
Having spent years riding horses, this analogy is a favorite of mine because it’s simple and true. Imagine leading a horse to water…then what? You cannot force their heads to the trough. If they aren’t thirsty they’re simply not going to drink. If you have a spouse, child, family member or friend that repeatedly requests your advice or repeatedly makes the same unfortunate choices and then anguishes over them – you can advise, negotiate, dictate, plead and bargain, but even if that person agrees completely with the right course of action – if they do not feel full conviction in taking that path, they simply won’t. Save your breath, save your strength, show them where the water (salvation) is, but then let the rest be up to their fate.
This moment is but a speck on the road.
The road of life is long, and for all of us there are ups and downs, some are high or lower than others, but we all walk the same concept: born – walk – live – walk – grow – walk – age – walk – end. My point is that what seems crucial, urgent or important at this very moment in time, with a little distance (more time) becomes a barely recognizable speck on your road. Granted, there are issues we face that cannot be trivialized (like unemployment, divorce, cancer, or death), but almost everything else that upsets us on a daily basis is trivial, and if you can just remember that it’s ONLY a speck on the road, your anger, frustration or sadness will lessen almost instantly, and most certainly in a day, week, or month, you’ll look back and think what was I so upset about?
* * * *
I hope one or two of these will pop into your consciousness the next time there is a circumstance befitting the use of these life-strategy analogies, and please feel free to share any analogies that you have come to rely upon when a coping tool is needed.
As a life coach I find that my most used strategy in helping a client create a better and happier situation for themselves (whether relationships, career, or their emotional health) is to guide them to see a problem from a different perspective. We tend to approach all problems from the same angle with the same emotional perspective that is our “go to view” based upon our baggage and inherent personality traits. Quite often, that approach results in a failure to change the situation for the better.
Although it’s difficult to see a situation through foreign eyes, it is essential to breaking patterns that are detrimental to your life. I call the strategy “neutral perspective.” In a sense it’s about seeing the FACTS (factual evidence is generally indisputable) from an unemotional viewpoint. Once you look at the issues that are tangible and real and remove your own issues from the equation, a clear solution always presents itself.
A long time ago I heard a psychologist on the radio share a wonderful modern-day fable that perfectly demonstrates neutral perspective. It is the story of Three Men and a Naked Lady (bet you didn’t see that coming)! It goes like this:
Three men are sitting in a car at a stop light. Suddenly a completely naked woman walks in front of their car through the cross walk.
The driver views her with contempt for so brazenly taunting him and deems her a sinner and whore.
The front passenger views her with lust and admiration, knowing with certainty that she would welcome his advances and that perhaps he should follow her.
The back passenger though at first quite shocked, realizes that something is amiss and this poor woman needs help. He jumps out of the car, drapes his coat around her, and offers her a ride. She is beyond grateful. Turns out she was a kind and very wealthy woman who after being kidnaped and robbed, managed a daring escape albeit without her clothes. After accompanying her to the police and seeing to her safe return home, a week later the woman repays the man’s kindness with a lovely dinner and within a year they are married and live happily ever after.
This is a perfect example of emotional vs. neutral perspective. The first man felt inadequate in his relationships and had a negative view on women in general. The second man had learned to cover up his insecurities with arrogance and false bravado. The last man was emotionally balanced enough to look at the tangible facts in a situation and act accordingly. He saw a naked woman with bruises on her arms, crying and looking quite scared. He knew this had nothing to do with him.
So whatever it is in your life that is bringing you strife, stress, and/or heartache, perhaps it’s time you viewed the situation with neutral perspective. Once you can see clearly what the problem truly is (through factual evidence), a solution will clearly present itself. Then you just have to face implementing that solution – which is very often not easy but if the stakes are high enough to you, anything can be made better!
If you are interested in some life coaching help, http://www.danelifefitness.com.