Is Your Perspective Limiting Your Joy and Influence?


Sometimes I’ll play with the GPS navigation display in my car, even when I’m not looking for directions. I have this small dial that zooms in or out on my location with each turn: street, block, neighborhood, city, county, state, region, country, continent and world. While I’m stopped at a light, I like to zoom out to the dot on the image of the globe in outer space. It reminds me of when I was a kid and I would lie in bed thinking about my relative size from increasing distances above me.

sky-earth-galaxy-universe 2

In my everyday life, my mind defaults to zoom into street level. Street level is about me—my short-term goals, my agenda, my current activities and my immediate desires. It’s natural that I default to street level, but I wonder what would change if my default was much bigger, if it was dialed out to the story larger than myself.

Expanding Beyond the Limits of a Limited View

When I took cross-country ski lessons, the instructor dispensed with the requisite technique portion and then got to what he thought was the most important part.

“When you’re approaching and going up hills, keep your eyes fixed on the top of the hill. It will keep you balanced, aligned and motivated.”

It hit me like an avalanche: I focus so much of my mental energy on my skis and the snow just below me! This is natural because it’s where my physical energy is being directed. But I’m missing out on balance, alignment and motivation.

When I limit my view, I limit my joy and influence.

Viewing our lives through the lens of broader perspective allows us to:

  1. Carry on. In a TED Talk, Ben Saunders describes his incredible attempt to complete Robert Falcon Scott’s failed 1,800-mile round-trip trek from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole and back. One detail in particular caught my attention: after spending the first two months of the journey without a hot shower or a chair to sit in, sleeping outside every night, he arrived at the South Pole station buildings (the halfway point of the trek). Rather than enter the buildings, he immediately turned around and started walking back again. He said that he couldn’t afford any distractions from his focus on the broader goal.
  2. Choose wisely. In The Best Question Ever, Andy Stanley’s book on decision-making, Stanley says that we should use the following filter question to make life choices: What is the wise thing for me to do in light of my past experience, my present circumstances and my future hopes and dreams?

    This isn’t impulse decision-making. It’s not a cost-benefit analysis. It’s gaining wisdom through the broadening of context.
  3. Influence people. In Chapter 10 of How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie advised that we should appeal to nobler motives. He shared the example of Lord Northcliffe, an early 20th century British publishing magnate. When Northcliffe learned a newspaper was using a picture of him that he didn’t want published, he immediately wrote to the editor. But he didn’t say, “Please don’t publish that picture of me. I don’t like it.” Instead, he appealed to a broader context. He wrote, “Please don’t publish that picture of me any more. My mother doesn’t like it.”

What do you have your default zoom set to? Perhaps dialing out your perspective will lead to greater joy and influence.

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