It’s All About Your Perspective

In this increasingly divided world, it's important to step outside your filters.

Posted Nov 19, 2020

Nick Fewings/Dreamstime
Source: Nick Fewings/Dreamstime

Many times we can stay blind to the perspective we have in life. Something “should” be a certain way, or it just “is” this way or that way. The filters we have, and the beliefs we look out at the world with, color our understanding and our views. The problem is that we may act on these views as if they were facts and miss out on another reality. 

A recent personal experience brought this home to me full force. I had the chance, during these COVID times, to get away for an overnight with two grammar-school, life-long friends. We were very happy to be out and able to do things, and mostly wanted to stay outside. We were taking a walk along the water and boardwalk of the little New Hampshire town we were staying in. While we walked, we talked about the times we were living in, the changes, and the different lives many people were living. We came upon a sign for a restaurant called The Green Bean. The sign had a big red word: “Closed." We continued to walk along but now our attention was focused on how sad it was that this small restaurant had closed. We started to focus on the other closings we were aware of, and the difficult times a lot of restaurants and stores were having. 

As we walked past, on the other side of the sign, my friend had something in her shoe and she had to stop to fix it. It allowed us all to see the other side of the sign, with a big green “Open” word on it. We had been looking at the side where you exit the restaurant, not where you enter! 

Why did our filters allow us to quickly lament the closing that was even real?

  1. We saw only one side of the sign and didn’t consider that there was another side.
  2. We were already oriented, by our conversations and focus, on the losses associated with COVID and what was happening in many places.
  3. We all agreed to what we were seeing — no one took the alternative view that we might be missing something.
  4. It never occurred to us that we were standing on the wrong side of the sign!

This experience was a great metaphor for what happens to us in life, and what we want to stay awake and aware of as we go through our daily lives. We often see what we expect to see. We have beliefs and values, and we find the facts and the data that support these rather than seeking to find alternative or competing views. We don’t do a proverbial “walk to the other side” of the sign to see what’s there.

In this increasingly divided world, it becomes more and more important to step outside your filters and work to find opposing or differing perspectives. As a practice each day, try and do the following to increase your ability to stay open-minded, rather than getting stuck on one side of the sign:

  1. Question things. Having a healthy curiosity and a wonder-filled attitude can help you open your heart and mind to what’s beneath something you may see on the surface. If my friends and I had thought for a minute and questioned, we might have concluded that it seemed impossible, with the activity going on in that area, that this restaurant would be closed. We might have wondered why they would have a sandwich sign out on the walkway, rather than just a sign on their door. We might have used our phones to look up the restaurant and confirm whether it was closed. Stopping a minute to question, to ask, and to learn allows you to find new information.
  2. Check your beliefs. The old adage that a glass half-filled to one person is a glass half-empty to another is true. The same scene can be filtered very differently depending on your life view. You might be having a bad day, and therefore everyone you meet is a jerk or unpleasant. You might believe life is fundamentally good, so you find joy everywhere. Take a minute, five or six times per day, to check in on your thoughts, emotions, and self-talk. Realize that your frame or viewpoint will color your experience.
  3. Seek an alternative view — on purpose. Most people don’t like to be wrong. They want to confirm their beliefs and be proven right. It can be challenging to find you were focused on the wrong things — i.e., looking at the wrong side of the sign. However, it can help you to grow as a mature human being when you can deliberately push yourself to find other information that does not support your ingrained ideas. Every week, spend time finding one person, article, or idea that conflicts with what you know to be true. You don’t have to change your views, and you don’t have to agree — you want to simply see that there are other views with potential merit, and you can open your mind to these.