It has been shown that the richer your experience of the world the more likely you are to be successful. Why is this the case? Let’s take polititcians and preachers as examples. They don’t often check that what they say actually makes sense from more than one perspective. They tend to just tell you how it is, take it or leave it. This means if you just accept their word as the truth then you are missing all the other perspectives, i.e. their success in engageing with you will be limited becuase they aren’t neccessarily encompassing your perspective. You don’t want to make the same mistake for your success.
I just watched an interesting talk on TED by Roger Antonsen a mathematician who reminded me that our world and our understanding of it comes from different perspectives or as he put it the representations on the opposite sides of an equals sign in an equation.
If you follow this argument that the world is just a collection of perspectives, then the more perspectives (resources) you have on any topic the richer your world view and the better your chances of success. Does that make sense? OK so with me so far? Then let’s look at how to maximise the number and quality of perspectives you have access to.
First, what do you need to get a different perspective? Well I think you need imagination, existing perspective, few limiting beliefs and acceptance of your limited experience of reality;
- Imagination: Roger also covered this in his talk. Everyone has imagination even if you don’t think you do. When I say to you “imagine if I gave you $100 what would you do with it?”, you all quickly come up with something whether it’s putting it in a bank (not very imaginative) or having a night out (quite imaginative) or giving it to charity, etc. If you thought “what on earth is $100 and what should I do with it” then you still have imagination but you might be missing something else.
- An existing perspective: Some level of experience to call upon, e.g. you need to know that $100 is money and can be used to purchase items of a similar value. This existing perspective allows you to be realistic, without it you are just guessing what $100 is (maybe a symbol for a snake on a stick ($) watching a tall, thin person (1) blowing bubbles (00) = $100)! The more you already know, e.g. what $100 is worth the more realistic your imagination can be.
- Avoid limiting beliefs: If you believe I will never actually give you $100 then it’s harder to imagine what you’d do with it. Beliefs only exist because experience has taught you them to be true, either by being continually told they are true or regularly experiencing events that support them until you quickly accept them as truths. “All swans are white” is a belief that was held by Europeans for so long that in literature swan and white were used almost interchangeably. Then explorers found black swans, I think in Australia, and the truth that swans are all white was no longer a truth. It is sensible to examine your beliefs and recognise that most if not all are just your current perspective, “my bum looks fat in this”.
- Your view of the universe is not reality: Bit deep right! It’s a well-understood concept but one worth remembering. Any existing perspectives are limited, you can’t know everything, you can’t even experience everything. Your view of the universe is constructed by your brain from inputs it gets from your senses and the connections it can construct to remembered inputs or more simply your imagination. Your senses are very limited, e.g. your eyes can only detect a tiny fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum, if you could see a bigger fraction, as some species can, you’d have a very different perspective of reality (that’s what infrared cameras do by the way). Similarly, your ears only hear in a limited range, and your noses can’t detect low concentrations as well as some, which is a good thing with my kids! You can only see, hear, feel, smell and taste what’s close to you and to a certain scale, e.g. you can’t see individual molecules with your eyes or hear a conversation in a room down the hall let alone on the other side of the planet or even a different planet. Even with technology extending your senses like microscopes, telescopes, telephones, etc your senses are minuscule compared to reality and pretty poor as an individual in a species of seven billion. It’s a bummer I know but your current perspective on reality is extremely limited, but thankfully all you need to do to change that is simply accept it.
Second lets add empathy to supercharge those new perspectives. If you take the points from above and use your imagination then you can imagine reality (really all you’re doing anyway) but from someone else’s eyes, ears, etc.; their experience. As Roger also mentions this is called empathy and it’s completely free and incredibly powerful. Not everyone can empathise, hands up if you know a narcissist, hint if you’re catching yourself in a mirror and thinking something like “my hand looks so good when I put it up” then you definitely know one. Fortunately, most people can empathise and it is a great way to get new perspectives.
So are there any practical tips to actually get more perspectives whether by empathy or another imagined reality? Glad you asked, there are clearly different ways of doing this and some will suit others more, but my tips are talk to yourself, practice dissociation and examine beliefs;
- Regularly have a conversation with yourself. No, it is not a sign of madness to hear voices, just as long as you are in control and they aren’t telling you to do something of questionable morality. We all have an internal dialogue going on in our heads and we should ask ourselves questions like “is there another way of doing this or reacting to that?” or “what would my wise mate Bob do/say?” or “what would a complete stranger notice about this?”, etc.
- Practice dissociation. All this means is using your imagination to leave your body and look back at yourself or better still enter another to get a sense of their full experience of the situation. Sounds a bit wacky I know but it’s actually pretty easy with a little practice and your imagination works so much better when it’s not stuck in you with all your limiting beliefs and emotions.
- Examine those beliefs. As mentioned before they mostly come from something in your past. So imagine how someone else would see that past situation and if they can come up with another possible explanation (doesn’t have to good just possible) then your belief is only one possibility. When you recognise that you might just find your belief softens or even just goes and suddenly your life becomes richer with greater understanding. So go ahead I believe you can do it.
I know my world is richer for it and more successful, and I’m willing to bet yours will be to just by taking another perspective or two.