Science and art belong to the whole world, and before them vanish the barriers of nationality.
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

   

The MONTHLY Motivator - October 2002

Gaining perspective

In the open ocean, away from sight of land, you fall off a small boat into the water. You’re a good swimmer, and are able to begin treading water after a moment or two. But there are six-foot swells in the sea and you can’t see over them to determine where the boat is. Even though you’re only about 25 feet away from the boat and could easily swim that distance very quickly, you don’t know which way to swim.

In such a situation, you would benefit greatly from gaining a little bit more perspective. For example, if you had some sort of a floating platform, such as a lifeboat, you could stand up on it and that would probably get you high enough above the surface of the water to see over the waves and spot the boat. A small amount of extra perspective -- five or six feet -- would make an enormous difference in your situation.

Now let’s consider a more familiar and more likely scenario -- being adrift in the turbulent sea of everyday life. You’re sitting at your desk with 30 unanswered e-mails in your “urgent” folder. The phone on your desk is continually ringing, so much that you can’t even begin to work on your e-mail between calls. The cell phone in your pocket rings and you learn that your child needs to be picked up from school right away because she has a fever. But first you have to go by the post office and mail a stack of bill payments, and then deposit some more money in the bank to cover the checks.

It’s the kind of situation in which you could benefit from gaining some perspective. In this case it is not physical perspective that would help, but mental and spiritual perspective.

The complexities of modern life often come at you so quickly that all you can do is react to them, and by so doing you allow them to control you. Yet with enough perspective, there is no need to spend all your energy reacting to what is going on around you, and merely staying even. With enough perspective you can move calmly, confidently and effectively in the direction of your most treasured dreams no matter what happens. By gaining more perspective, you can rise above the frustration of living from one crisis to the next, and put your energy into a life that is genuinely and continually fulfilling.

So how do you gain this valuable perspective? Well, something as useful and valuable as increased perspective requires some effort. There is much to be seen from the top of the mountain, and yet there is a substantial climb required to get there. To gain perspective takes commitment. It’s not something that can be acquired in a shrink-wrapped carton at your local department store. It requires your input and your time and your desire to make it happen. Sending someone else to climb the mountain for you may give you some valuable information, but it cannot compare to the rewards to be gained from climbing the mountain yourself.

An important step in gaining perspective is to cut down the noise level so you get in a position where you can hear yourself think. If you’re like most people, there is always so much activity and confusion swirling around you that almost no space is available for real, extended contemplation. Most of your mental energy gets spent reacting to the fast-paced world in which you’re immersed. That can indeed be thrilling and satisfying to a point, yet eventually it turns up empty. Eventually you get to a place where there simply doesn’t seem to be a point to it all, where you keep doing the same things over and over again without ever moving perceptibly forward.


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—Ralph Marston