“Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty. I see a glass that’s twice as big as it needs to be.” ~ George Carlin
Since March 2013, I have been writing and posting a new blog post weekly. When I first started out this commitment to myself, I thought “how am I ever going to think of something to write every week?”. As it turns out, the world and life have an endless canvas from which to create. So much so that this week I wanted to weave in 3 things that are on my mind – politics, pets and perspective.
I know, a title polluting the media everywhere. Although I am Canadian, this U.S. presidential election means something to everyone in the world. The United States President has often been unofficially known as the most “powerful person on the planet”. The gravity of what this means for Americans, and by extension the rest of the world, adds to the already existing distress and unrest around this election.
To highlight how serious the stress of this election is, the 10% Happier app is offering Meditations for Election Stress. I have mentioned the podcast, 10% Happier with Dan Harris, in a prior post, Podcasts – Take-Away Messages on Life from Recent Episodes, and I quite enjoy it as it offers a lot of insight into the benefits of meditation.
One of the meditations for election stress with JoAnna Harper offers reflection not only during this election, but during other difficult times as well. She invites us to consider what our core values are to define what really matters to us. She is also asking us to think of what are we worried will happen with this election? Everyone may have a different perspective but the challenge is to appreciate what another person’s perspective and values are.
When you are going through times of stress and difficulty, do you ever look at your pet(s) and think “cats and dogs have it so easy?”. I have many times, however, I also think my pets are likely saying “why is she making everything so hard?”. Touché. We have two cats and two dogs and all four of them have their own unique personality. The one thing they have in common, as with most pets, is that they “live in the moment”.
We tell ourselves that they forget the bad things such as the trip to the vet or our absence during a trip, perhaps to make ourselves feel better about having to expose them to certain situations. However, my pets quite clearly remember based on their excitement or apprehension as they realize where the truck is heading. The fact is that when something happens they move on and don’t dwell on the past.
From their perspective, they might be saying “you are back home from your trip – cool”, or “this visit to the vet is painful, but it won’t last forever.” We know this perspective-taking to be true in our own lives but when our “monkey-mind” gets carried away, which invariably it will and does, no cage seems large enough to contain it.
The older I get, and perhaps wiser, the more I appreciate the importance of perspective in every facet of life. The Psychology Today article, Is Perspective-Taking a Skill?, accurately defines perspective-taking as “the ability to take someone else’s viewpoint into account when thinking”. When we look at the importance perspective-taking has on our relationships, we look no further than empathy. As Brené Brown illustrates in the RSA short, Brené Brown on Empathy (which I have referenced many times), perspective-taking is essential in our ability to have empathy for someone else, ‘to feel with them’.
Perspective from our own viewpoint is also the cornerstone of happiness. This cognitive process allows us to feel grateful and appreciate what we have or what could have been. As an example from own life, when I was in residency and the physical and emotional demands were high, it was tempting to be completely consumed with my current reality and over-emphasis my importance as a resident. After my first year of residency, we had our son and although this compounded the sleep-deprivation and overall challenges of day-to-day, it gave me so much perspective on the need to set boundaries with work because someone else really needed my time and energy too. It was probably the time I was best at taking each day as it came, without future or past concerns, knowing it would pass.
Bringing together politics, pets & perspective
When we feel helpless and potentially hopeless as many Americans may feel right now, it is useful to look at life from our pet’s perspective. If we live more in the moment, things don’t seem so bad. Worries are thoughts, nothing more and what is done is done. As someone who tends to worry, I need to remind myself of what is, not what might be or was.
Can you think of a time when perspective-taking changed your life?