“It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” -Epictetus
The way we view and respond to situations in life has a massive influence on the trajectory in life we are headed. Developing the maturity to step back from situations in life and revision a better perspective is arguably one of the most important traits to have to getting through this world. I am also not here to tell you everything can be sunshine and rainbows if you just have enough positivity. Life is suffering, humans are broken, and to think that there’s a way to conjure up enough positivity to get through all of life’s trials is unfortunately misguiding. That said, there is a great deal of value in shifting your mind out of a victimhood mindset into a mindset that takes ownership in life.
1. Perspective builds ownership – Jim Rohn once said, “If you don’t change what you are doing today, all your tomorrows will look like yesterday.” Bill Burnett, in his book, “Designing your life.” breaks down two types of problems everyone faces in life: Gravity problems and Anchor Problems. Gravity problems aren’t really problems because they are unchangeable. Realities of past decisions or present laws cannot be changed. On the contrary, anchor problems are just really difficult problems that require a shift in perspective. Rather than anchoring in on a narrow idea that “I can only lose weight through this diet.” because that is the only way you ever did lose weight, perspective requires the individual to think through alternative yet realistic routes to solving the problem or achieving the goal. We must be careful and thoughtful when examining the realities of our problems but at the same time never adopt a victimhood mindset. The reality is, most of our problems can be fixed and shifting our perspective to realize that we do in fact have control over a large majority of our problems can be freeing. It doesn’t mean that taking ownership will automatically make life easier. In fact, it initially makes life harder when you face the reality that many of the inflictions of life are caused through past habits or decisions. Taking ownership is the first step in maximizing growth in one’s life.
2. Perspective builds contentment – Despite many of the shortcoming of our culture today, I feel a positive movement towards many people’s view of what real contentment is. Still for many, contentment means having what they want and thinking that once they get hold of something (a relationship, a job, a car, enough money, etc.), everything will fall into place and be peaceful. The reality is that is a complete lie. There will never be ‘perfect conditions’. Ecclesiastes 11:4 says, “He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.” The real meaning of contentment is, “a state of peace and happiness, regardless of where you are financially, physically, or emotionally.” This doesn’t mean that you cannot be eager to seek improvement in those areas. It does mean that the difficult realities of the present aren’t overtaking your joy with worry, anxiety, and restlessness. When individuals are content, stress is lower, gratitude is higher, and joy is more present. These past couple of years has taught many of us that things or money is not really what will ever fulfill us but people, community, connection, and our spiritual, emotional, and physical health are much more valuable than we once have might of thought.
3. Perspective builds humility & gratitude – It’s fair to say that many Americans have learned or at least become aware of the blessings that so many of us took for granted prior to the difficulties of 2020. At the same time It made many think through the much harsher realities that many people are facing in this world outside of the United States. The living conditions and social injustices here in the United States pale in comparison to what is currently occurring in so many other countries across the world. In reality, facing adversity may be some of the biggest turning points in our lives. Adversity often pushes us to reshape our perspective and act on what needs to be different.
Conclusion – Nutrition expert Shawn Stevenson reminded his community, “What will always matter more than whose in The White House is who’s in YOUR house….World transformation begins under your own roof.” Each one of us has control over what we allow in our heads and in our rooms which has drastic implications on the future. Developing the ability to apply perspective to life and it’s difficulties can propel each one of us into greater happiness, growth, and gratitude for life.