Who would not like to see what is around the corner? If we were cameras, we could just change our perspective and we would be able to see around the corner. Of course we can change our positions as well. Probably the most helpful thing we can do with our minds is to change perspective. In many cases, all that we need to do to solve problems that seam insurmountable is to change our perspective. Empirical research from positive psychology and cognitive neuroscience are chuck full of results that tell us that changing the way we see the world, just a bit, can make significant differences in our quality of life, our health, our work and our relationships.
There many things that many of us do every day to shoot ourselves in the foot, and I am no exception. Up until about two months ago, there was a story I told myself that was not true. I had been telling myself my whole life, which is coming up on 50 years, that I sucked with names. I sucked with names! I would meet someone at work, at an interview, at a party and a few minutes later I would forget their name. I told myself, “It’s just the way my brain works.” It was so bad that I kept a list of all the people I worked with next to my phone so I could look them up as needed.
Then, in my quest for self-improvement, I finally read Dale Carnegie’s, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” and it blew my mind! In what felt like another life time, during my very brief Amway experience some folks tried to get me to read this book, but the title put me off. In my naive youth, I did not understand that all of us try to influence each other all the time and it is not really what the book is about. Sure, as a result of reading the book and following its practices you will make more friends and be more influential, but that is only because you will be a nicer, more considerate person.
Shortly after reading the book, I was in Kuala Lumpur on vacation and staying at a guesthouse. I decided that I was going to try to remember everyone’s name that I interacted with. It was a great guesthouse and I ended up going on a few group outings that day, I hung out with 10 people and I was able to remember all of their names! For the first time in my life, I was good with names! Me! I still remember 4 of them. And the only thing that changed is my perspective. I’ve done this with a number of other things I thought I was bad at now and I’m convinced that I, you, that everyone can learn and be good at whatever they are willing to put the effort into.
Changing perspective has so many other possibilities to make our lives better. Changing from a pessimist to an optimist will increase your health, earn you more money, make you happier and result in better relationships, it will even lengthen your life! If someone cuts you off in traffic, or exhibits some other sort of public behavior that you find offensive, make up a good excuse for their behavior in your mind, instead of thinking the worst of them. Doing this will diminish any resentments you might have and help you let go of any anger your feeling. In fact feeling compassion for someone who is going through something bad will leave you feeling good. And since you are likely to never find out the reason for their behavior you might as will pick the response that serves you best.
Learning to be more flexible in our thinking, to see things from others perspectives and to change our own perspectives gives us more control over one of the only things we are in control of in our lives, our minds. So why not look around the corner?