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Calm in the Chaos

Five Ways to Shift Your Perspective


As Henry David Thoreau said, “It’s not what you look at that matters; it’s what you see.” Shift your perspective to see life in a way that is better for you.
Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash

by Jamie Spannhake

June 27, 2019


Calm in the Chaos

Five Ways to Shift Your Perspective


As Henry David Thoreau said, “It’s not what you look at that matters; it’s what you see.” Shift your perspective to see life in a way that is better for you.

by Jamie Spannhake

June 27, 2019


Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash

When you face situations you don’t enjoy or problems you can’t readily solve, it is helpful to shift your perspective. Shifting your perspective allows you to focus on the good, elevate your mood, and reach creative solutions. You shift your perspective by thinking or doing something differently to change yourself, your situation, or others. Here are five ways.

1. Think “I Get To” Instead of “I Have To”

Sometimes when I am feeling overwhelmed by life’s responsibilities, they all seem like weighty obligations: I have to prepare breakfast for my daughter. I have to walk the dogs. I have to call clients. I have to draft papers and negotiate a settlement. There are so many things I “have to” do. Truth be told, some of those things may not be necessary, or at least not necessary for me to do. But even when I am the one who must do them, I can change my words to shift my perspective.

I get to prepare breakfast for my daughter and spend some time with her while we eat. I get to walk the dogs and see how eager they are to sniff around. I get to call clients in order to help them (or at the very least, to earn income). I get to draft papers so that I can advocate and make persuasive arguments. I get to negotiate a settlement, which can be an interesting experience and provide clients with much-needed resolution.

When you think about all the tasks you “have to” do today, change your words and see how much better you feel.

2. Change Something Small

When things are not going as well as you would like, change something. Start with something small, like driving a different route to work or trying a new restaurant for lunch. The change doesn’t need to be related to the problem. Simply doing something differently will allow your mind to open to other possibilities. Eventually, you can move on to changing bigger things that have a more direct impact on the problematic issue.

3. Use “What I Like About It Is …”

Use this phrase when things are not good, and no matter how much you change or rephrase, they don’t get better. Your computer crashed and you lost important photos and documents? “What I like about it is … I can upgrade to a new, faster computer.”

It doesn’t solve the problem, but at least you can find one positive thing to focus on while you deal with solving the problem.

4. Consider Another’s Perspective

When dealing with difficult people, it can be helpful to consider their perspective. Think about where they are emotionally. Consider what challenges they are facing. Contemplate the decisions they are considering. This is particularly useful when trying to reach a resolution to a contentious problem. Once we understand the other person’s motivation and concerns, we can “soften” our response if that is appropriate, or we can craft solutions that work for ourselves and simultaneously address the other person’s concerns.

5. React Unusually

If you don’t like the way things are going, react unusually — that is, don’t keep doing the same things in response to the same issues. Instead, do something unusual. Perhaps every time you speak on the phone with that member of your family that pushes your buttons, she raises her voice and you become annoyed, which leads to a heated argument. Next time: React differently. Maybe excuse yourself from the call and contact her after you have calmed down. Maybe remain silent. The point is to create a break in your actions and thoughts to provide an opportunity for things to move forward differently.

As Henry David Thoreau said, “It’s not what you look at that matters; it’s what you see.” Shift your perspective to see life in a way that is better for you.

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