The Power Of Perspective

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One of the many benefits of hiring a coach is having the opportunity to have your coach deeply listen to you and observe your emotions, struggles, and energy.  When I am working with a client, one of the things I listen for is what perspective she or he is currently holding.  At any given moment, each of us is coming from a perspective; it might be a joyful perspective, an anxious perspective, a struggling perspective, etc.  

But most of the time, we don’t have the distance from our own perspectives to realize that they are just that: perspectives.  And when we realize we are holding a certain perspective, it gives us the power to choose to keep it (if it is benefitting us) or change it (if it is limiting us in some way).

Changing our perspective is not always easy, but it is always powerful and important.  Here is an example from my own life.

Last winter my sweet little girl was hospitalized with a serious respiratory infection.  Normally a naturally joyful and active toddler, I saw her become more and more sick until she was lethargic and almost unresponsive.  I felt helpless and terrified as one of the people I love most in the world faded into sickness.  I am infinitely lucky because after a few days in the hospital she was much better, but the experience was very difficult and deeply affected me.

In the days after she was released from the hospital, I found myself feeling extremely anxious about my family’s health.  I felt scared, jumpy, sick, and sad.

After about a week, I started to recover from my sleep debt and my energy began to trickle back. I gradually began to realize that the way I was viewing our lives was making me miserable.  And even though I was trying to hide how I felt from my kids, it was affecting them, too. And as my energy continued to return, I remembered what I tell my coaching clients: each moment of our lives we are coming from a certain perspective. We have the power to stay in it or to change it.  

I realized that I desperately needed to change my perspective.  I was living from a perspective that was making daily living feel harsh, cold, and frightening.

I took some deep breaths, prayed, and thought about all I was thankful for. I thought about all the wonderful things in my life: my wonderful children, our health, our home, the love we have for each other.  Just these simple steps helped bump me out of a deadening perspective into a life-giving perspective.  I felt lighter, hopeful, stronger.  From this perspective, my goal was to eke all the joy out of every moment that I possibly can, to appreciate the beauty of each moment.  How different than my previous goal of trying to avoid a plethora of imagined health problems!

We can all change our perspective whenever we choose to do so.  The first step is to identify what perspective we are operating from, and what effect that perspective is having on us.  What is your current perspective?  Is it a helpful perspective?  How is it working for you?

Next, choose a different perspective.  Use tools to help you really explore it.  Breathe deeply, take a walk, talk with a loved one, watch an inspiring movie.

In my example above, I chose to switch from an anxiety-filled fearful perspective to a thankful perspective.  There are many perspectives we can choose: a hopeful perspective, a playful perspective, a compassionate perspective.

Again, it is not always easy to change your perspective.  There will almost certainly be times that your old one comes knocking on your door again.  But when it does come knocking, if you realize that you are in a perspective, you give yourself the power to change it.  Some perspectives are more ingrained than others, and I work with clients to help change some pretty deep-seated ones.  But it IS possible.  And you can do a lot of it on your own.

What perspective are you coming from right now?  How is that working for you?  From what perspective would you like to live?

3 Ways To Cultivate A Healthy Marriage

couple-1432941-1279x1770Having a healthy marriage or other committed relationship is a subject that often comes up in my sessions with clients.  It is something we all need to work on on a regular basis and is crucial to our well-being and happiness.  Here are 3 perspectives that can be helpful in cultivating a healthy marriage.

 

1) Avoid The Comparison Trap 

When we are having a fight with our spouse or are going through a challenging period, it can be very easy to fall into the trap of comparing our relationship to others’ relationships.  We can put a magnifying glass on what is “wrong” with our spouse or our relationship and see around us examples of people or couples that we imagine have better relationships.  This comparing can make us feel even more discontent and dissatisfied.

But the truth is that *every* relationship has struggles.  Even the couple on Facebook that always looks so happy and loving in their photos?  Yep, even them.  Even the couple you know who’ve been married for 30 years and seem perfectly suited to each other in every way?  Yep, even them.  Even the couple that insists that their relationship is great? Yep, even them.  *Every* relationship has challenges.

I’m not sharing this to be depressing, I’m sharing it because I think it is crucial to take off the rose colored glasses when it comes to other relationships, and instead focus on the strengths in our relationships and the unique path we have to walk together.  We can’t see all the great things that are possible in our marriage if we are constantly looking at other people’s relationships.

2) Look For What You Love
When we are in the midst of a challenging time with our partner and we feel hurt and misunderstood, it can be very hard to bump ourselves out of that negative place and into a more positive, productive place.  But, I’ve discovered in my own life and in my work with clients that doing so can become much easier with practice.

So, for example, if I feel my husband hasn’t acknowledged something important to me, I will feel hurt.  It is very easy for me to act from that place of hurt and say things that will make him feel defensive.  For example, I could say, “You never listen to me the way I want you to listen to me!” or “Why can’t you be more considerate?”

But if I can step back, take a deep breath and remember that we are a team and need to work on things together, I can bump into a different perspective.  I can remember all the things I love about him.  I can remember all the times he does listen to me the way I need him to.  From this perspective, I can say something that is much more likely to result in what I actually want, which is to have him realize what I need and help me meet that need.  I could say, “You know, I really love it when you listen to me in a focused way.  When we are too busy and that doesn’t happen, I really miss it and I feel upset.  Can we try this again?”

3) Have Compassion For Each Other & For The Relationship
Being in a committed relationship is one of the most beautiful and growthful experiences we can have in this lifetime.  Because having a long-term relationship requires constant effort and growth, there are necessarily wonderful times and there are challenging times.  When we are in a difficult period, it can be very helpful to stop blaming each other, take a step back, and say, “Hey, we are having a rough time right now.  Every couple goes through rough times.  Going through this is hard for both of us.  Let’s take a minute to just have compassion for each other and for our relationship.  Since we have some problems to solve, let’s try to solve them together rather than being at odds with one another.”

Along with this, it can be incredibly helpful to do an exercise in which you see your relationship as as its own entity, in need of its own things to flourish.  So, for example when you are having a disagreement, and it feels like you are butting heads, you can try saying, “OK, this isn’t productive.  Our relationship needs some mending right now.  What does our relationship need?”  You may find it needs more compassion, more input of love and fun, or some help from a professional.  Taking the focus off of either one of the people in the relationship and onto the relationship itself can be a great way become a team again and have compassion for each other.