By Mark Tewksbury – GREAT TRAITS –
It’s human nature to have selective awareness. Conditioning ourselves to self-filter information, we set ourselves up to only notice certain things. Over time, without even realizing it, we start to go through the day seeing, hearing, and feeling only things that we’ve set ourselves up to see, hear, and feel. This happens to the exclusion of many other things. The challenge becomes: What are we missing?
Last week, Debbie and I looked at the topic of aging in a public forum hosted by the McMaster Health Forum. We related to the event tagline: It is time to look at aging from a different perspective. We began the session by asking the audience to notice what they notice. We shared that it’s easy to hear negative comments on aging if you are looking for them – and that could be to the exclusion of more positive, inspiring examples that confront this perspective. Then, co-presenter Dr. Jennifer Heisz, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at McMaster, challenged us to look at our own pre-determined bias to aging. Somewhere in childhood we all created an idea of what aging would look like, and as we go through life we see, hear and feel things that reinforce that bias. It left me thinking, “What information do I let into my head that shapes my views and opinions”?
Might there be a different way to look at things? How many new opportunities do we miss when we don’t have an open mind?
Putting this trait into practice can sometimes be challenging, but it can also be simple and fun.
I recently went for a run – one of my last outside for a while given the snow is now falling as I write. As my knees were hurting at the outset, I remembered my partner’s mom, Audrey, who after years of running had to stop around 50 years old because her knees couldn’t handle it anymore. This momentarily rattled the high-performance athlete in me and made me think that looking for a less impact option might be my case sooner than later. But then I thought of how Audrey now walks every morning for close to an hour and in her mid 70’s is one of the healthiest, strongest, fittest people I know. This made me smile. “I can always just walk if I have to,” I thought to myself. Which was quickly dismissed as my body warmed up, my legs lightened, and my knees loosened up to handle the run. My perspective had been expanded, and it was not only good to have the choice but also especially helpful to have a role model in my mind for other options.
This is the whole point of this trait.
Instead of feeling frustrated, stuck, or hopeless—expanding your perspective leaves you open to new ideas and possibilities.
It doesn’t mean you are always changing your thinking just for the sake of changing. You might decide to do the same thing again, but that decision comes after considering numerous possibilities.
Perspective informs us, and supports our growth.
What perspectives might you want to do a 180-degree shift on?
How might that change what you see as possible for yourself going forward?