A Matter of Perspective

iStock_000016271480SmallAre you a worrier? A little stress is a good thing. Stress makes you practice that speech, study for that test, re-edit that document, and re-test that theory. Too much stress is bad for your health. Continual stress can, according to WebMD:

“… be linked to headaches, an upset stomach, back pain, and trouble sleeping. It can weaken your immune system, making it harder to fight off disease. If you already have a health problem, stress may make it worse. It can make you moody, tense, or depressed. Your relationships may suffer, and you may not do well at work or school.”

As I age, I seem to worry more and more, building stress to the point where I loose sleep over fairly inconsequential things. Trust me, I’m absolutely no fun to be around when I haven’t slept well!

Lately, I’ve come to the realization that (as the character Kris Bjornsen in one of my favorite books – Freedom’s Landing by Anne McCaffery said) – things do work out.

Things do work out, especially if you can gain the right perspective. Its fun to think that we are in control and influence things. Sometimes it is even true. Other times, our choices are limited more to how we view events that happen – the perspective we choose to have.

My only problem is getting to that place where I can get the perspective.

In the movie Ratatouille, the food critic Anton Ego, said:

“After reading a lot of overheated puffery about your new cook, you know what I’m craving? A little perspective. That’s it. I’d like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that?”

How to get perspective.

Too bad we can’t order it from the menu! When you are feeling down and out, stressed and worried, how can you change your world view to become a happier, and thus, healthier person?

Get away from routine.

Stepping back from the day in, day out activities and rhythms of your life can help you push that wall of worry around and away. Give yourself permission to be a totally different person for an hour or a day. Do things you normally don’t do – to see things you normally wouldn’t see.

Get outside.

Holed up in our caves, our problems loom ever larger, forming dark storm clouds in our minds. Stand outside on Mother Earth, feel her warm breezes (or her cold blasts!), go find a hill that lets you look out over a distance, then let your thoughts wander over the landscape. How many generations of people have walked this earth? How many places are there that you could go where this problem doesn’t even exist?


Laughter helps most everything! Smile and you feel more like smiling. Read a joke, tell a joke, watch a funny movie (or a funny person!). Trying just laughing out loud for no reason whatsoever if all else fails.

Get into the other guys shoes.

A few years back, I bought a condo at the lake. I pictured my adult sons and their families gathering there with my spouse and I, having fun, building new relationships and making memories. For several years, we did just that, then life got in the way. The boy’s spouses went back to school to become nurses, then to work while going on to pursue master’s degrees. The boys tired of visiting the same place and my spouse didn’t want to go if the kids weren’t around. Every time I went to take care of something at the condo, it was a four hour drive and lots of work. I started feeling sorry for myself and bitter towards my spouse and family because they just wouldn’t come.

Intellectually, I realized the reasons they couldn’t come, but emotionally I still expected them to eagerly accept when I invited them down for a weekend at the lake.

It wasn’t until I thought back to my own young adulthood that I realized how much I still struggled for a sense of independence back then, how much I still wanted to ‘do my own thing’ away from parents.

Spending the weekend with Mom, even at the lake, is not the go to option for most young adults. Viewed from the perspective of an adult child, I get it. I just need to find ways to enjoy my condo (or bite the bullet and sell it!).

Look up at the sky and keep your mind’s eye going on out into space.

Imagine laying on your back in the warm grass, looking up watching the clouds, then seeing further and further out. What would you look like laying there, from a vantage point on the moon?

Now, how big is that one little thing that is currently stressing you out?

Move forward in time to see how big your issue will be in a day, a week, a year, a decade.

In a year will you really care about (or even remember) the perceived slight from a co-worker? In a few months will the world be any worse off if the plumbing gets fixed a week from the now or in two weeks?

I don’t think so.

Everything happens for a reason.

That darn condo caused problems this spring. A harsh Midwest winter caused an outdoor faucet to freeze. When it was turned on, the pipe burst and water flooded the inside of our condo. It was a pain, but the association property manager handled most of the repair company communication.

Because of the damage, I ended up making the trip to ensure everything was fixed properly. Because of the damage, I ended up with a professionally cleaned condo, top to bottom – paid for by the condo associations insurance. This is a job I usually spend a week doing myself. Bonus! Things worked out. Things happened for a reason.

Focus on the positive.

Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have once said:

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”

I guess which you do depends on whether you are smelling the roses or picking the thorns from your finger – it is a matter of perspective.

Focus on the roses when you think about those bushes – even when you have a thorn in your finger. The things we focus on shape our vision of the world and its possibilities. If you think you can do something, you usually get it done.

180 your viewpoint.

As Marcus Aurelius – Roman Emperor and author of ‘Meditations” is supposed to have said:

“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”

On those days when it seems like the universe is out to get you, reject that idea and look at it from the opposite viewpoint – what is the universe offering you?

We all tell ourselves stories about what happens to and around us. It’s the truths that you draw from the event that happens to you that shape your destiny, not the event it self.

“…What happens is of little significance compared with the stories we tell ourselves about what happens. Events matter little, only stories of events affect us.”

Rabih Alameddine, The Hakawati

How have you gotten a new perspective?


A Matter of Perspective — 6 Comments

  1. Sometimes, when I need perspective, I think about the things that I was most stressed about and how they matter so little now. Even something as seemingly big like my college applications when I was in high school seem so insignificant now.

  2. When I’m stressed, the first thing I think about doing is going fishing. Luckily enough, I work from home, so on those really stressful days, I can bring the laptop to the river and reel one in while I work!

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