Gaining Perspective

Learning how to appreciate the good and roll with the bad

Gaining Perspective

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

~Abraham Lincoln

What we see depends mainly on what we look for.

~John Lubbock

Do you have a good life?

Are you sure?

The perspective we have on our lives can make a huge difference in how we answer this question. Some fixate on the inevitable headaches and hassles that come up, the problems they must fix, and the challenges they have to face. They define their lives through the negatives, which takes away their attention on the positives.

A shift in perspective can make a dreary, sad life filled with worry into a wonderful, exciting life filled with happiness.

It’s amazing what humans can get used to (both good and bad). You don’t have to look far to find miserable upper-class people living in luxury, or happy, well-adjusted people who are facing great adversity.

There are many people in this world who can persevere through crushing hardship. They plow ahead, do what they can do, and keep their minds and hearts focused on the bright points in their lives, even when the hardships greatly outnumber those bright points. I am always amazed and inspired when I see examples of this.

On the flip side, it can be all too easy to take things that are magnificent or breathtaking for granted. We get used to them and they’re not so special.

I have led a very comfortable life and have never wanted for anything, but there have been a few experiences that have given me a healthy perspective. Once, when I was a kid, we moved and bought our new house before we had sold the old one. We ultimately had a lot of trouble selling the old one and had some fairly serious financial troubles for a time.

I remember one incident in which my father had to meet the fuel oil guy with cash before he would fill our tank because of difficulty in paying our bill. We were one step away from not having heat in the winter. We eventually recovered from this, but it has given me a lifelong appreciation for meeting life’s fundamental needs and a wariness of extravagant spending. It has also helped me to not take life’s headaches too seriously.

For most of us, it can be helpful to ask ourselves what our problems are and give ourselves a reality check once in a while. Do we have a roof over our heads a food to eat? Do we have friends and family that care about us? Are we healthy? Do we have a job?

If the answer to each of these questions is yes, then whatever problems we’re facing can be dealt with.

Of course, some people do have big problems. At some point in all of our lives, the answer to at least one of these questions is no. In those instances, all we can do is keep plugging along. Assess the problem, fix what we can, and try our best to accept what we can’t. Take inspiration from those who have persevered. Get help both for the problem and for dealing with it.

It can also be helpful to take the really wonderful things in our lives—music, friendships, nature (whatever is important to you)—and keep them in a special place in our heads and in our hearts. Take them out every day and remind ourselves how great they are and how lucky we are to have them.

In the end a healthy dose of perspective can help us appreciate the positive aspects of our lives and deal with the negatives. It may not solve our problems, but it can help us cope.

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Pete Wiley
See all posts by Pete Wiley