Real Life Leading #27
Attitude Shapes All: Your perception is your reality, so change your perception
Just yesterday afternoon I was sitting in my recliner at home, reading a book on the Templar knights. My wife was in the den with me, doing a couple of sewing projects. At the same time, my daughters were in the room as well, with one playing a game and the other reading a book. Taken together, it should have been a great moment, a scene of domestic tranquility fit for a storybook.
There was only one issue: it was so loud! I was trying to read, and the kids kept talking, my wife kept playing music and singing along with the lyrics, and it was making it so difficult to concentrate on what I was reading. The longer this went on, the more frustrated I became. In fact, twice I had already started to form some sort of snide, biting comment about how much easier it is to read when everyone is silent or not in the room. And that’s when it hit me…
How often does this happen to us? We’re in the middle of something that should be great, whether in scope or in enjoyment, and it’s spoiled because we’re focused on what isn’t to our liking instead of on what is great. I live in the south, and so this happens a lot in the fall: if you’re an Alabama football fan, any season that doesn’t end in a national title is often viewed as a disappointment. If you’re an Auburn fan, even if you beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl, if they win the national title, it’s a bit of a disappointment.
I also see this in my classroom when students who are used to making great grades often struggle on the first test or two (my class is typically one of the more difficult ones they’ve come across in their young academic careers). Kids are upset at making a low ‘A’ or even a ‘B’ instead of the perfect scores they are used to, never mind that I tell them that almost everyone struggles on the first couple tests in my classroom. I also see this sometimes on my soccer team when a player had a great game, helped the team, worked hard, but is still upset because they missed a scoring opportunity.
We as humans have a tendency to get so focused on what didn’t go well that we miss out on enjoying and properly appreciating what did go well. When we do this, it is most often because we have become unconsciously self-centered within that moment. Take my example from yesterday: I was focused on my reading, my own experience in the recliner, my own convenience and desires. Because I was so focused on what I wanted, my own perspective, my own perception, I was missing out on a beautiful family moment.
And that was what hit me yesterday in my recliner: I needed to change my perspective. I needed to focus on the bigger picture: all of my family was in one room enjoying a pleasant weekend afternoon. There was play, there was music, there was singing, there was conversation, and I was the only one who was even remotely bothered by those things. The issue, in fact, was me.
I don’t remember where my wife got the idea for this, but I’m glad she found it: we keep a memory jar in our den, and every year throughout the year we write down different moments, memories, or experiences that we want to recall. Then, sometime on or after New Year’s, we get out the jar and read through them, often chuckling and smiling at the ‘forgotten’ great moments we experienced during the year. Then we file them away and keep them so they can be gotten out again in the future. Yesterday was most certainly a memory jar moment, but I was in danger of missing it simply because I was being so self-focused. I’m very grateful that in that moment, God revealed to me what I was missing out on. He changed my perspective, changed my perception, and thus changed the reality that I was experiencing in that moment.
Today, I want to challenge you to do the same: when you’re frustrated with a situation, try to consciously take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Focus on the blessings of the moment, rather than the temporary (or even long-running) frustrations. Focus on the positives, reorient your perception based on the good things, and then watch your experience of the moment change along with it. As a bonus, you’ll find out that this positive attitude shift can be catching!
Action Step: Today, take a few minutes to consciously re-examine a recent frustration in light of the positives surrounding the situation to see how your perception clouded that moment. Then share what you discovered with someone you love; trust me, they’ll be glad you did!