My wife and I are at Starbucks (in a long line of course) in the airport waiting for our order, and right next to us is a woman patiently waiting for her order as well. As I take a second glance, I noticed she was smiling. Reflexively, I smiled back at her as she spoke to both my wife and I and asked how we were. This small interaction led to a longer conversation that brightened the rest of our day. As we walked away we recounted how nice it was to encounter such a nice person. As I continued to think about our interaction, a question began to form in my mind:
“When did pleasant people become an endangered species in our society?”
Think about it. When was the last time you randomly encountered a nice, genuine person?
Exactly…it takes a second to recall, doesn’t it?
If we’re honest, it seems normal these days for people to walk around in a dark cloud of depression, self-loathing and self-pity. Let’s not even mention the people who are just plain mad…at everyone. They go to sleep angry and wake up angrier. What caused this mass deterioration and dysfunction? I believe it can all be summed up in one word…Perception. Yes, our perceptions are the blueprints for how we look at life, and everyone had a different blueprint. Think of it as our point of reference. It’s the way we process everything around us as we look through the lenses of our personal experiences and biases. If our lenses are dark, then our outlook will be dark and vice versa. What if I told you the reason why you are not producing the results you desire in your life could be the result of your outlook? One of my favorite quotes from Leonardo da Vinci states, “All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.” Whether it’s work, home, relationships, or all of the above, how you view life can determine what you produce in your life.
Perception vs. Perspective
Ladies and gentlemen, I have good news and bad news. First, the bad news (sorry):
Perception and perspective are two different things. I know you’re asking, how is this bad news? Well, the main reason is because so many people confuse the two. They think the way they see and interpret things is the way things really are. Have you ever encountered a habitually paranoid person who believes that everyone wants to harm them in some way? How about a person that constantly feels that they have been purposely omitted from a communication or event because no one likes them. Although these may seem extreme, they are examples of faulty perceptions, and are more commonplace than you think. The difference between perception and perspective is the fact that perspective is the ability to place a singular event into its proper contextual construct. In other words, seeing things from the proper point of reference within the framework of what really matters to you.
Here’s a little exercise that reinforces proper perspective. So you wake up in the morning to encounter Murphy’s Law at work in your life. Everything that can go wrong does go wrong. You overslept, the kids are fighting in the car, you’re stuck in traffic because you left home later than usual (you get the point). You finally make it to work, late of course, so you’re not in the best mood due to your dreadful morning. However, when you walk into your office you discover that one of your co-workers was just diagnosed with cancer, and another co-worker’s mother died the night before. Remember that dreadful morning of yours? Doesn’t seem so dreadful now, does it? That’s the power of proper perspective.
Now, I promised you some good news, didn’t I? Here it is: Perceptions are malleable and can be altered pretty quickly. In turn, when your perception is positively altered, it places you in a better position for increased productivity. I like to call it fruitfulness. I came across an interesting fact that I’d like to lift from an article entitled “Well-Being, Success, and the Gallup Student Poll” conducted in 2009. High school students who reported consistently experiencing a joyful outlook had better academic records overall. This proves that people with an overall positive outlook are happier, which could be a precursor to success and impactful results.
Perception and Maturity
Did you know fruit trees only produce fruit after they have reached a certain level of maturity? Just like fruit trees, our productivity is connected to our maturity, because in most cases our perceptions are rooted in our level of maturity. Many times our actions are influenced by our perceptions, whether good or bad. Arising from our actions are the consequences of those actions. If we’re honest with ourselves we will admit that when we were younger and immature, we made some pretty dumb decisions that we would later live to regret. What makes us see those actions for what they are (dumb)? Could it be that time and experience placed those actions in perspective? Our actions are the seeds that carry the genetic material that produces the offspring of consequence. That’s why I believe that maturity is the force of proper perspective. As we mature, we tend to focus more on the consequences of our actions. Until we mature completely, we will always struggle to maximize our productivity.
So if you are struggling with negative perceptions, here are some effective tools that always work for me when I find myself in a bit of a conundrum.
- Diet– You are what you eat, and food affects mood. Try to make healthy eating a lifestyle. When you eat great, you feel great, and when you feel great, you produce great things.
- Exercise– Research consistently shows that exercise improves and hones all of our bodily functions, including perhaps the most important of all…brain activity. When we’re sharp mentally, we pay attention to detail, which is a guaranteed gateway to increased productivity.
- Quiet Time– Whether you pray, meditate, or just take a short nap, time spent in quiet solitude can relieve stress and change negative perceptions throughout your day. I encourage you to take advantage of breaks in your day to silently recharge.
- Connect– We all thrive on social interactions with others. You may not be an extrovert or a social butterfly, but connection with like minds and significant others can greatly reinforce priorities and ideas that really matter to us. There is nothing like spending time with the people we love to help bring proper perspective.
- Travel– A change of scenery can go a long way when trying to change negative perceptions. Never underestimate the power of “vacating the premises.”
Be encouraged today and remember, trees produce fruit; fruit contains seeds; seeds produce trees.
What will YOU produce today?
Thank you for visiting Wisdom’s Quill.