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Your own perspective matters more than the reality that surrounds you — no matter how ugly that reality is. And despite all the things that are out of your hands, you have complete control over your perspective.
You get to choose how you experience the highs and lows of life.
Don’t believe me? Keep reading.
A Personal Story About Perspective
When we think about the importance of “perspective,” it’s easy to for our minds to first jump to times of incredible adversity. But controlling your own thoughts and reactions is important every single day — when you miss the bus, spill your coffee, get passed up for a promotion, get unfriended, or are hurt by your spouse’s words.
I share some of my most personal thoughts and deepest, biggest goals on social media in hopes of inspiring others. These thoughts and goals have worked well for me; I consider myself on a fast-track to a successful life, both personally and professionally. I like to share these things with others so they, too, can feel success.
And despite these great intentions, I still come across energy takers from time to time. People who bounce from one social media platform to another, tearing down my work and questioning my integrity and intentions. Recently one of these “trolls” commented on several of my posts for thousands of viewers to see. She felt my goals were unrealistic and unachievable, and proceeded to share her own advice with the rest of my followers.
Sure, I was upset. Even hurt a little. But then I adjusted my perspective and changed my internal dialogue to remind myself that my goals are high because I personally think I have incredible potential. And I believe having high goals elicits success and achievement.
I took the high road — not just in my response to this person, but also in my own head. I chose to recognize a reader who didn’t yet have the confidence to set the bar high. I explained to the reader that I was thankful for the message and would use it as fuel to propel me even further. Yes, my goals are high and yes it may be out of reach, but it’s a matter of perspective, my own perspective.
Heroes Who Faced Adversity
My story addresses the importance of controlling perspective in everyday struggles and adversity: a failed test, an unkind word, an unfair promotion at work. But there are thousands of examples of people who kept their perspective even during the greatest adversity you can possibly imagine.
Anne Frank fled the Jewish Holocaust with her family, lived in hiding for two years, and was sent to a concentration camp where she died at the age of fifteen. Yet even in the throes of her suffering, her internal dialogue as recorded in her diary was flooded with hope and positivity:
“I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness; I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.”
Dave Pelzer authored A Child Called It, documenting the story of an incredibly abusive childhood and the mental fortitude that got him through his suffering. Dave’s alcoholic mother starved, tortured, neglected, and enslaved him for years before Child Protective Services discovered his existence. His mental fortitude and choice to focus on the dream of getting out alive helped him survive misery that most will never understand.
The stories don’t stop there. Jim Carrey had to drop out of high school to support his family but his internal dialogue — his perspective — led him to success. Bethany Hamilton lost her left arm to a shark when she was thirteen and won a national surfing championship just two year later. Oprah Winfrey was repeatedly molested by family members as a child, became pregnant at fourteen, and gave birth to a boy who died soon after.
How to Control Your Perspective When Things Don’t Go as Planned
Whether you’re facing an annoyance that could serve as a perfect jumping point for a terrible day (you overslept, maybe, or got into an argument with your significant other) or you’re facing the most trying times of your life, your perspective predicts your outcome.
Here’s what I do to keep a positive perspective during times of adversity:
- Give the benefit of the doubt. Assume your spouse had good intentions when he or she simply said the wrong words. Assume someone is having a bad day rather than jumping to the conclusion that you are not respected or cared for. When passed up for a promotion, assume the most qualified person was promoted and ask how you can develop yourself to get in line for the next one. Assume the colleague who didn’t return your greeting in the hallway simply didn’t hear you.
- Change your internal dialogue.That voice in your head that narrates your day gets off course rather quickly. Perhaps you’re facing foreclosure on your home, so the voice gets stuck repeating things like, “You’ll be homeless. You’ll never come up with enough money to get caught up. Your credit will be ruined. Nobody will rent to you. Nobody will give you another mortgage. You’ll live on the street. You could lose your job.” Stop that voice in its tracks (it is you, after all) and redirect the dialogue. Say to yourself, “You can overcome this. You are destined for greatness. There are good things coming. There is meaning behind this diversity that you are meant to discover. This is a jumping off point for greater things.”
- Search for meaning.When faced with adversity — whether annoying, hurtful, or life-threatening — ask yourself, “What am I meant to learn from this?” Finding meaning can help you find purpose, and purpose can get you through the worst of times.
- Journal your gratitude.Focus on what’s good in your life by journaling your gratitude every morning and every night. Choose five people, opportunities, blessings, or experiences that elicit true gratitude and focus on those things.