A perspective is a way of looking at something, a point of view. In coaching, perspective work is a tool for helping clients recognize the unchallenged assumptions they hold about a situation, try on alternative views, and choose the perspective that is most true or otherwise best serves them.
Since there is usually a huge difference between objective reality, and the way we interpret it through the lens of our prior experience, clients greatly benefit from experimentally trying on different perspectives. They recognize there are indeed other valid ways at looking at a situation, and this makes it easier for them to let go of old patterns of thought and action. It can help them get unstuck and move forward.
How we choose to interpret any particular event has an huge impact as to how we feel. It impacts how much meaning and joy we experience, and how much we suffer. It also affects our ability to act, or otherwise create a brand new reality from the current situation. Just how much our take on any situation impacts our functioning is often overlooked or underestimated. In reality, various studies (Steel, Aronson, and others) have demonstrated that even a subtle, unconscious and untrue assumption you may hold, can negatively impact your actual performance on assessments by over 50%.
The perspectives we hold are far more important than we might imagine. And nowhere is choosing your perspective more important than how you choose to view life in general. Let me illustrate this point by contrasting 2 perspectives we can hold about life.
Perspective 1 (The Small Separate Me)
This is the most commonly held, or default, way of viewing life. We see and feel ourselves to be a separate, little human being, with our own body and mind running around in a sea of billions of other individuals. Life is short and frail. Happiness is fleeting. Death, disease and loss of love is inevitable. Resources are finite. Competition is fierce, and things are constantly changing. So we need to develop various assorted personal and societal strategies in our attempts to control life and maximize our personal security and happiness.
Consequence – Since there is always the background belief that we are vulnerable and fleeting, we never truly feel safe or happy for long. We are constantly stressed, and it is always assumed that more happiness, security, power, love, etc., is needed and out there somewhere. So we work harder and keep striving to get “there”. But nothing we do or achieve actually keeps us happy for long.
Some of us spend the bulk of our adult lives attempting to run from our underlying anxieties to secure some greater measure of happiness in an imagined better future.
“At the root of suffering is a small heart frightened to be here, afraid to trust the river of change, to let go in this changing world. This small unopened heart grasps and needs, and struggles to control what is unpredictable and unpossessable. But we can never know what will happen.
With wisdom, we allow this not knowing to become a form of trust.”
– Jack Kornfield
Perspective 2 (The Life Is A Mystery, And Yet I Trust It View)
This is a far less common perspective. In this perspective we entertain the possibility that perhaps all things, and all people, may not be as solid and separate as they appear. Perhaps there is something more, something we cannot see that connects and influences our lives. This view may arise in some as a simple intuition. It might arrive by Grace, but it is also a fact of 21st century science (have you read any quantum mechanics lately?). It is also a core teaching at the heart of some of the world’s great spiritual traditions.
Life, death, space, time, causality, love, beauty and many other aspects of our experience are indeed mysteries that defy all attempts to conceptualize, model, mechanize or control. So in this second perspective we embrace and align with the profound mysteries of life and our being, and accept that greater forces are at play.
Consequence – If I accept whatever is unfolding, independent of whether I expected/wanted/deserved it, and in full recognition that the senseless and tragic seem to happen in equal measure to the sublime, then:
A) I will be wasting far less energy resisting reality, and accepting/willing only the half-full portion of the glass.
B) I can direct more resources into creating, acting wisely, being compassionate, or simply moving forward from here.
C) I can entertain the possibility that no matter what is happening, (even at the times when life strips away our fondest desires), things are going to be okay. Life will go on and I or someone else might be wiser, more loving, more patient, and compassionate to others who are suffering. And sometimes, just possibly, whatever is happening might actually be for the better.
D) Everyday stress and anxiety can routinely melt into acceptance and even gratitude.
You Get To Choose
A key point in life, and in doing perspective work, is you get to choose. You get to choose how you look at any event in your life. I believe Einstein was making this very point when he said,
The most important question a person can ask is, “Is the Universe a friendly place?”
If you view the universe as an unfriendly place, you are going to interpret most of the events in your life as probable threats. This is going to lead to a very constricted, anxious, reactive life.
If you choose to trust that all events are just an unfolding of life from a vast, mysterious, but generally good Universe/God/Consciousness/Nature – then you are going to feel a whole lot happier and lighter of spirit.
It is a great gift to realize you can always look at things in different ways. Take the time. Choose wisely.
It Takes Time, But Stick To It
If you decide to change your perspective, it is important to recognize it may take a while for the new point of view to feel real. It takes a little while to re-train our brains. Evolution has ensured we pay far greater attention to possible threats. So from our default point of view, the Universe will always look decidedly unfriendly and full of threats to obsess about.
Modern neuroscience has shown we will, on average, need to spend at least 3 times the attention on the lower intensity positive point of view, to offset the more emotionally charged negative view of events. This takes intention and practice. It also benefits from the support of others who share the new point of view. (We grow, evolve and change our perspectives most quickly when we are emotionally connected to others.) So cut yourself some slack when you inevitably backslide, and look for people who can help you reinforce your new way of looking at things.
The good news is, you most certainly can change, re-wire your brain, shift your perspective, and begin to enjoy the benefits soon enough. The ultimate proof that you have made the right choice is a flowering of far more ease, joy and love in your life.
While we cry ourselves to sleep, gratitude waits patiently to console and reassure us;
there is a landscape larger than the one we can see.
– Sarah Ban Breathnach
Do You Have A Website?
You Will Want To Run This Check
(Or Risk Losing Half Your Traffic)
If you have a website for your business, and you haven’t already, you will want to copy and paste your URL into this free Google tool to determine how “friendly” your website is to being viewed by mobile devices such as smartphones. With now over half of all searches coming from mobile devices, Google rolled out a big update to its search algorithm in April, which is going to greatly benefit sites who are mobile friendly. Another way of saying this is that, as of April, if your site is not easily viewed and navigated on small mobile devices, the volume of visitors coming to your site may be cut in half.
This is relevant to anyone who has a relatively older site.
The good news is that it is not too big of a deal to get your site updated to be compliant to the new standards. If you need some recommendations on who can help you with this, just email me. I just went through the whole process with my site at Life and Business Coaching.
For Fellow Coaches
1) For those of you who might at times feel you are not measuring up as a coach, you may enjoy this article I wrote recently for the ICF Blog, titled, A Tribute To Meat And Potato Coaching. It talks about a very common inferiority complex shared by many coaches, which has a negative impact on their work and practice building.
For Fellow Coaches Needing More Clients
2) For those of you still struggling to attract enough clients, I will be starting another of my affordable group marketing programs for coaches shortly. It is a combination of 1 to 1 work, large group calls and small group calls to support you in finding an authentic and personal way to greater success. I have run this program for 10 years now. To read about it and see many testimonials of past participants, go here Affordable Marketing For Coaches.
For Fellow Coaches Needing More Mentor Hours
3) For those of you needing to accumulate additional Mentor hours for your next ICF credential, I have put together an affordable program that is a combination of small group calls and individual mentoring with me. The program meets existing ICF guidelines and shares a deeper teaching on the core coaching competencies. In the course content I draw extensively from positive and developmental psychology, neuroscience, mindfulness, myth and the great spiritual traditions. It is starting soon so if you are interested check it out at Affordable Mentoring For Coaches.