In hard times, many people resort to a pessimistic outlook on life, whereas in good times, it’s common for folks to have a happy-go-lucky outlook; nothing could be more damaging to a person’s ability to overcome tough times.The reality is that we humans have the ability to choose our perspective on life, which means that it doesn’t have to be a mere reflection of the moment we are currently experiencing. Especially in times of duress, it is paramount that individuals understand and harness the power of perspective, turning one’s perspective into a tool to surpass rough moments, not a tool to perpetuate them.
Pondering One’s Priorities
In order to adequately align one’s perspective on life, it is essential to have a clear, conscious definition of one’s priorities. Though certainly new priorities may emerge with the passage of time, these generally are able to fit into broader, over-arching priorities. Try to identify what those would be. Here are some examples:
- Providing a dignified home for you and your family.
- Giving your children the best possible education.
- Preserving the good health of those around you as well as yourself.
- Promoting the overall strength and sustainability of your community.
There’s an uncanny similarity between the main priorities of all humans, no matter what culture they are a product of. Once you have identified a core set of priorities, learn how it is that you will be able to honor and fulfill them.
The tricky part about priorities is that we sometimes stumble in accomplishing them; our interpretations of why we stumbled can either serve to reinforce our conviction, or to obliterate our resolve. In the latter case, we tend to misconstrue how and why we made a mistake, and even more importantly, we do not turn our mistakes into opportunities for learning. After all, learning from one’s mistakes is just about the only way to attain happiness, or whatever degree of happiness is possible—we will not get into the spiritual conversation of whether or not true happiness is attainable, but will settle with that it’s always possible to be better off, aka happier. Hence, no matter how much suffering a person endures, it is always possible for them to convert that suffering into a lesson for future betterment, which is what putting your troubles into perspective is really all about.
Choosing Your Perspective
Just as the process of identifying our priorities is within our own control, so too do we have the power to determine our perspective on life; they are the two sides to one coin.
- As stated in the introduction, it is not necessary—nor healthy—for our perspective to mirror our circumstances, especially if these are less than ideal. Realizing that you can proactively mold your very own appraisal of life is a vital step along the road to personal contentment.
- In hard times, focus on what the silver lining to your cloud is, and do not give up on it, but rather know that now more than ever you need to believe in it, and invest in it. Search for the lesson from your mistakes, and search for the insight afforded by every misfortune.
- As peculiar as it is, we tend to find what we are looking for in life: if we are looking for the bright side of things, we will find it; if we look for only that which is bad, so too shall we find it. Therefore, it is up to us to decide what we are looking for, and that is the very definition of what the work ‘perspective’ means. Be mindful of the negative aspects of life, but do not succumb to them, do not let them decide your perspective for you.
Reaping the Rewards of a Healthy Perspective
People that have learned to hone their perspective, turning it into a tool for getting through hard times and self-improvement, are far more likely to end up well-positioned when the going gets good
again.A positive attitude is a self-reinforcing mechanism that, once mastered, can be set on auto-pilot. A healthy perspective gives a person the energy, the conviction, and the means to accomplish goals and fulfill expectations others may have of you, whenever these accord with your own priorities—the child hoping for an education; the family hoping for a home; the community hoping for sustainability.
Historic Examples of Perspective
There are, of course, emblematic examples of people that learned to overcome hard times thanks to the power of perspective:
- Nelson Mandela, who came through 27 years of incarceration to lead an entire nation into a new, democratic era
- Mahatma Gandhi, who waded through decades of foreign occupation to help free an entire country.
- Martin Luther King, Jr., who never abandoned his struggle for civil rights despite the contempt he observed in those around him and the obstacles placed before him, eventually becoming the martyr for one of the most noble causes to sweep through the fabric of American society in its entire history.
What would be of history if these people had given up on their priorities, and failed to use perspective to traverse the trials and travails that beset them? Though their predicaments were surely worse than what most Americans are experiencing in the current economic meltdown, the principle is one and the same: keeping one’s gaze fixed upon the horizon is the only way to avoid getting stuck in a quagmire.
Think not only of the benefits persevering with your healthy perspective will bring you, but also the benefits it will afford those around you. In the end, a healthy perspective can never be a selfish perspective; it must always fuse one’s good with the good of others.
For additional help on how to use the power of perspective to make it through whatever difficulties the contemporary situation may be inflicting upon you, some people turn to their religious leader, whereas others turn to family and friends, a psychiatrist, or even literature. Whatever the case, there are a variety of ways to begin the process of reaching a stable, positive perspective on life.