Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Step 3: Shift Your Perspective

From the Steps to Learning How to Fly series.

How would it be if everything that you thought you knew / Was turned upside down opposite from your point of view / How would you feel if the ground was really the sky and all of this time / you've been walkin' when you coulda been flying . . . ~Ellis, How Would It Be

Have you ever seen one of those images where if you look at it one way it looks like one thing, but if you shift your perspective it looks like something else entirely? There's the classic from Intro to Psych where the same image looks like an old lady or a young lady. Or the one where you can tell which side of the brain you are using depending on which direction the lady is spinning, and for some of us even switch the direction she is spinning in. Or really, just about any of M.C. Escher's work, where he plays with reality by throwing physics out the window. Perspective is part of what makes us human and is probably the best example of relativity I can think of because there is nothing permanent about it, nothing absolute--it can always be changed, shifted, adjusted as new information comes in or as we make new choices.

Choice is perhaps the most powerful concept available to anyone interested in making changes in their life. Dictionary.com offers at least a dozen definitions of choice; my favorites are 1) an act or instance of choosing; selection; 2) the right, power, or opportunity to choose; option; and 3) an alternative. This idea of selection, of opportunity, of options, of alternatives, can be applied to our lives in a myriad of ways. Let's start by looking at three:

1. Choose your reaction. How you react to what's happening to you and around you is a choice. Even just looking at life as a series of events that are happening to you is a choice. We are active participants in our lives with more power than most of us can imagine, let alone tap into, but a place that is (relatively) easy to start is with our reactions. When someone cuts in front of you in line at the store, you have a choice whether to view it as an active insult, an honest mistake, or not to care either way. When someone else is having a bad day and bites your head off, you have a choice about whether to get mad in return or to recognize where they're coming from and to see past the attitude. It's a matter of perspective, of where you're coming from and how you're feeling in that moment. Sometimes even just being aware that there are alternative ways to react to a situation diffuses it and provides you with what you need in order to take a step back, detach yourself, and choice a more positive perspective. Does this mean that suddenly the people around us in our lives aren't rude or whatnot? Not necessarily. The power in this is that it is 100% about you and what you choose to do with the situation--whatever is going on with the other person doesn't need to come into play, especially since the only person you have control over, really ever, is yourself.

2. Choose anew. Each moment is an opportunity to make a new choice. A teacher of mine used to say, "You aren't responsible for your first thought but you are responsible for your second thought." Especially when you're just learning how to shift your reactions to things, the first thing that comes up for you is often the familiar pattern or habit that's been with you for most of your life. It's okay, there's no need to beat yourself up here. This is a great opportunity to use that power of choice to shift your perspective and choose anew. While Scarlett O'Hara's observation that "tomorrow is another day" is definitely true, coming right up is another moment for you to use as you see fit. The goal here is to pay attention to your thoughts, your moods, whatever is happening right now and see if those reactions are really in your best interest in this moment. So let's say you're back at that store with the person cutting you off in line. If you find yourself getting angry and starting to mumble under your breath, pause for a moment, take a deep breath, maybe shake your hand or your foot a bit like you're letting the anger fall out of you, and find a thought that feels better. Maybe notice that it is difficult to tell where the line goes and it's a mistake that anyone could make, or perhaps conjure up some sympathy when you see that the person is obviously distraught and just not paying attention, or even just laugh it off. Laughter is amazingly restorative and, at least for me, always makes me feel better no matter what is going on.

3. Choose to focus on the positive. Have you ever noticed how many of our cliches, adages, sayings are about things not going our way? When we talk about money, we say how it doesn't grow on trees or how we need to make sure we're saving it for a rainy day. When we talk about love, we say how it is fickle and fleeting or we banter about how hard it is to find a good man or woman these days. On your way into work in the morning if you meet a colleague on the way in, what do you talk about? My guess is how little sleep you got the night before or how much work is waiting for you on your desk or that flu that's been going around. Try a little experiment sometime and don't go with the flow here, talk about how great you're feeling and what a beautiful day it is and how you're really looking forward to that project you're getting to work on today. If you're lucky you can shift the tenor of the conversation; if not, you might just recognize how ingrained all this negativity is in our culture, our expectations, our way of life.

The law of attraction has gotten a lot of attention lately, some good and some bad. Wherever you are on that spectrum, it is definitely worth taking the time to truly understand what the law of attraction is all about.* It is an incredibly simple concept that is not necessarily easy to put into practice. The gist is that what you put out into the universe is what comes back to you, so if your thoughts, feelings, beliefs are generally negative then you'll get more negative back and if you're focusing on the positive, you'll get positive in return. I like to think of it as a cosmic photocopier--it isn't a perceptive process, it just takes in what it gets and returns it in kind. It doesn't have the power of discernment, can't say, "Oh, what she meant here was . . ." Often when we're thinking about what it is we want, our attention is on what it is we feel is missing in our lives--and exactly that, what is MISSING instead of on what it is we desire--and so we get more of the "missing" back in return. It's kind of like being asked NOT to think about a pink elephant--the first thing that happens is that you think about a pink elephant.

This is where the power of choice comes into play. As with the earlier examples, it is a matter of paying attention to what's happening in your head and in your life and using that power of choice to shift your perspective, make new choices, see the good even when it doesn't appear to be there. There are millions of inputs into this system every day and it is not possible to control all of them, but you can control the ones you're conscious of and choose to shift your attention to the positive, to what feels good to you. As with anything else, start where you are today and see if you can turn even one thing around, then maybe shoot for two tomorrow. With each thought, belief, pattern you shift each day, you'll begin to see your life shifting around you too.

Just remember, there's no one right way to do things. The only mistake you can make is not to try, to notice that things aren't going the way you would like them to and to choose not to do anything about them. Because yes, even appearing to not make a choice is a choice. Life is not a dress rehearsal, but it can definitely be a play with you as the playwright and the star. What new choices would you make if you really knew you couldn't make a mistake, that you'll always be supported, that there will always be something new out there for you to explore? What's stopping you?

Recommended Viewing:
The Secret
What the Bleep Do We Know!?


Recommended Reading:
The Law of Attraction, by Ester and Jerry Hicks
Winona's Web, by Priscilla Cogan
You Can Heal Your Life, by Louise Hay


* I plan to revisit this topic fairly regularly on this blog so we can continue to explore and come to better understand the law of attraction together.

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2 comments:

Fran said...

It seems to me that most of us are so out of touch with the present moment, that we almost always react instead of respond. When we stop and take the deep breath that you describe, it is an opportunity for us to actually feel what is going on inside of us, to give ourselves permission to feel it without judging ourselves for feeling that way, and then to make a new choice.

Jenn Sheridan said...

Such a good reminder, that the point is to *respond* rather than *react* -- thank you!