HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR PERSPECTIVE

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR PERSPECTIVE
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Let’s define Perspective

Imagine you are at the base of a mountain, in a thick forest. Would you be able to properly map out, and make sense of your surroundings? Of course not. But if you start moving up the mountain, slowly your vision expands and you have a better view of your surroundings. Once you reach the top of the mountain, you have a panoramic view, so that you can now easily sketch and map out your surroundings, with a clear understanding of “your place” in it. This is what we shall call “PERSPECTIVE” in real life.

Navigating through life, we mostly behave like someone at the base of the mountain, lacking a panoramic view of things. As moving up the mountain gives you a better view, similarly, the essence of time gives you perspective in practical life. Therefore the more connected you are with “deep time”, the more heightened perspective you have. The opposite of an elevated perspective is shortsightedness. Therefore in the next lines I will first explain what short-sighted behavior is, what are its two most important signs and how you can counter them. Then, at last, I’ll introduce you to a “new way of thinking”, that will further help you gain a heightened perspective.

A recurring cycle of stupidity

Consider a scenario you must have experienced in your life. You meet a charming person. You suddenly get infatuated with them and can’t have enough of their attention. Now, due to some reason, they are not giving you the proper attention and time.  Desperate to get a response, you double your efforts ultimately scaring them off. As days pass by, you eventually realize your response at that time was not appropriate. You acted out of urgency and under the heat of emotions. Additionally, you learn that the person in question was actually quite busy at that time, and couldn’t respond even if they wanted to. Now you are gaining wisdom in hindsight. You can think of a lot of other situations like this. You had a spat with your best friend due to a misunderstanding and when the reality came out later, it wasn’t anybody’s fault. Now you are sorry but you’ve lost your friend and nothing can be done. Or it can be a quarrel with your boss that cost you your job. You can think on and on. This is like a recurring cycle in our lives but the pattern is same. You encounter a problem, act stupidly out of emotions and realize later on that in fact, you were wrong, it could have been avoided and the price you paid was too big. All of these are examples of shortsighted behavior. Now the question is how do you know when you are being short-sighted. There are two signs of this that you need to be aware of.

Unwanted consequences

This is the most common pit we fall into. Alarmed by something in the present, we anxiously look for a quick solution, without thinking deeply about the context and roots of the problem, and end up worsening the situation even more.  We decide on insufficient information. We oversimplify the things. If I do thing A, it’ll necessarily result in B. Problem solved.

On the contrary, any phenomenon in the world is by nature complex and demands deep thought. Nothing is being controlled by one or two factors, instead there are always a multitude of seen and unseen factors that we fail to notice in heat of the moment and out of our drive to find a quick solution. Any action can set off a series of limitless chain of reactions. Other actors are pulled in, whose motives are hard to predict. As I said, there are a multitude of factors, so, in reality, we can’t find the best solution that would affect us zero loss. Instead what we should aim is to think deep and good, and try to minimize the losses as much as we can. Just look at some of the prominent examples of such type of thinking.

During World War 2, the Japanese thought that a fatal and decisive blow to the Americans at Pearl Harbor would lower their morale and keep them out of the War for good. But they did not consider that such an act might spark fury and anger in Americans causing them to enter the war, which ultimately spelled the death for the Japanese. Japanese had made it quite simple. Bomb Pearl Harbor, get America out of the equation. But they could not consider the other multitude of factors that were involved.  Or consider the American invasion of Iraq. The intended purpose was to rid the world of the danger of weapons of mass destruction. What ultimately came out of it was the demon of terrorism that almost engulfed the entire Middle East and became a global threat.   

This type of thinking is called nonconsequential thinking, where you take initiative without weighing in properly all the possible outcomes. Such thinking is especially prevalent in modern times, when people have the illusion of access to information when it’s not the access that matters but the amount of time and thought you put into it.

The narcotification

We, as a generation have become addicted to instant news. With everyone holding a cell phone, it takes only seconds to know the latest news and trends. The notification tone has a narcotic effect on us as. We want to get a hold of things in real time. We somehow have got addicted to these fast and furious news and trend streams. To put it simply, we have become essentially impatient, anxious and eternally nervous. This takes a toll on other aspects of our lives. Our attention spans have decreased, we have become less focused and intolerant of the obstacles in our life. We may recognize this impatience in our lives, but what we fail to realize is the disastrous effect such pattern of thinking has on our problem solving abilities and overall performance. What you need to understand is that micro trends and daily news are just parts of bigger and complex trends that span into months and years. These long trends are the keys to understanding the relative weakness or strength of any idea of phenomenon.

You can compare the micro and macro trends with a War and battles. Day to day fighting is like following the micro trends and the overall war is a mega trend. An army may face defeat in a battle due to some factor but the overall victory or defeat has its own reasons and dynamic. For example, although Hitler had conquered most of the Europe but he was destined to lose the war because of the insanity of Nazi ideas and beliefs that they could not keep their subjects loyal. History is littered with such examples. So your task is to develop patience which is more like a muscle and it requires practice. Encountering any problem or issue, you must first detach yourself from the heat and analyze the larger trends patiently. The importance of this is many fold in modern times as more and more people base their opinion on daily updates. In these circumstances if you show deep thinking and perspective, you will be proved right or almost right in the longer run, wielding immense praise and power over people. Taken far enough, this approach may seem you look like a psychic who can predict the upcoming trends. Secondly what you need to do is you must have a clear sense of your long term goals while encountering difficulties. You must gauge relative strengths and weaknesses of the parties involved. Such clarity will help you withstand the constant emotional overreactions of those around us.

You need to widen your relationship with time and slow it down as much as possible. You need to learn from the great teacher and master I.e. time. Being aware of the fact that the problem you’re facing right now, will not be so important one year from now relieves you and allows you to gain perspective. Yes, you enjoy the moment and the trends, but the real pleasure you derive is from achieving your long term goals. When you think about future these are not just dreams, instead, you have a concrete vision of your goals and how you are going to achieve them.

Once you have understood how shortsightedness clouds your perspective, it’s time we look at the right way   of dealing with your problems.

A new way of thinking

First of all, encountering a problem or an opportunity, you must train yourself to “get some distance from the heated moment”. You let your hormones come back to their normal concentrations. You simply detach. For us humans, stuck in the present moment, it’s as if we are at the base of the mountain. At the bottom, we just see what is most apparent to our eyes, people around us, and their petty emotional arousals. All of this gives us a limited vision of reality. The passage of time is like steadily moving up the mountain. As time passes, our heated emotions get cooled down and we can more easily detach ourselves and think like a strategist. The further we go in time, the more information and understanding we get. This is exactly why you see things in a different light after a year or two has passed. Because now the heat of emotions is gone and you have ascended up the mountain.

Secondly, you must resist the urge of coming to a “quick and easy explanation” and start acting. The real world is not so simple. Anything that happens out there has a number of varied seen and unseen factors controlling it. Therefore, you must dig deep, look at the overall context of the issue, the possible parties involved, ultimately gaining some perspective. Once you do that, you go for the solutions. In doing so, you should weigh in various strategies and their possible outcomes realigning them with your long term goals. In other words, you must get some “distance” from the present, a “deeper” look at the source of the problem, a wider “perspective” on the overall context of the problem and a look “further” into future.

Caution

Although it’s exceptionally useful, but you must know that developing this type of thinking is not easy and very rare in humans. It’s very natural because we are almost hard-wired to think like this. Living for thousands of years in scary jungles filled with deadly animals, humans needed to react instantly. There was no room and time for deep thinking when you were faced with a deadly predator and had to climb a tree. But in modern urban culture, this type of thinking is not very useful because we no longer live in such dangerous environments. But we are still only concerned about things that can harm or benefit us in the near future. We cannot take seriously the more distant threats that seem pretty abstract right now. Look at the problem of Climate change. Although leading world scientists have been telling us that it’s a real threat and it can almost spell the death of our species but most of us continue to ignore it. The reason is simple, we cannot fully understand the threats looming in the future, we only become aware of them once we confront them.

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