“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” – Albert Einstein
“If only I knew then what I know now.” How many times have you said these words to yourself? You may find yourself wishing you could go back and choose differently, whether it was something you said that you’d like to take back or a decision that changed the course of your life.
You tell yourself that everything happens for a reason and that It’s made you the person you are today. Still, you can’t help but wonder what your life would look like had you chosen another path. In that moment, the truth was invisible to you. It was only with the passage of time that you learned more. Time is the greatest teacher and reveals all.
This enriched perspective comes naturally to us as we experience, learn, and grow. Some people realize it early enough to change course, but many don’t come to that realization until the end of their days. Bronnie Ware, author of “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying,” was a hospice nurse in Australia who cared for patients in the last weeks of their lives. Her experience made her realize how fragile and fleeting life is.
“Life is over so quickly. It is possible to reach the end with no regrets. It takes some bravery to live it right, to honour the life you are here to live but the choice is yours. … Appreciate the time you have left by valuing all of the gifts in your life and that includes especially, your own, amazing self,” she writes.
Being aware of death might sound morbid, but seers throughout history have attested to its power in reminding us to look at the big picture. Ancient Greeks would “practice death” every day by infusing all their thoughts, actions, and words with this awareness. It prevented them from getting distracted by petty concerns. “Maranasati” is a Buddhist tradition that uses contemplation and visualization techniques to meditate on the nature of death. The Toltecs, an ancient civilization located in central Mexico, used death as “fuel to live and to love.”
Taking the long view is especially difficult in these times when we’re drowning in information. We’re so distracted by immediate news, global trends, and what we see in the present moment. Our attention is captured by the sensational, alluring, and dramatic. We lose our ability to see things from a wider perspective. The opinions and words of influencers, celebrities, and other people with large platforms take up mind space, diminishing our own critical abilities.
To become a superior strategist in life, you have to break away from herd mentality and develop a long-term approach. As humans, we have the gift of seeing further into the future and envisioning possibilities, unlike animals who only react to what’s happening in the now. It takes a conscious effort on our part to avoid what we’re naturally prone to doing; limiting our senses to what is immediate, without knowing enough.
Instead of waiting to connect the dots at a later time, we can give ourselves an expanded view in the current moment. A mountain climber needs to know where they are going and what actions they need to take before they reach their destination. They look at the road, terrain, up the trail and camp, and then fit their plan and route into that picture. They take these steps seriously because without observing the big picture, they could put themselves in danger.
Just like a mountaineer, we need to get that elevated perspective so that we can see the connection between our actions and their consequences. It helps to keep a firm grip on reality when we understand that one step could set off an endless chain of reactions. Consequently, we will avoid temptations and quick fixes that offer simplified and easy solutions.
It’s possible to have a breadth of vision while also maintaining a pulse on current events. You can enjoy immediate pleasures without reacting from a skewed and limited view on reality.
Here are three ways to develop a higher perspective:
1. Detach from emotions: Getting caught up in our emotions can distort our perception of the truth. It’s not that we should stop feeling things, it’s about how we manage them, especially when we’re triggered. In the heat of the moment, you may want to say a few choice words that you might later regret. You might be tempted to accept a lucrative job offer that you later find out isn’t what you really wanted. Waiting before taking action will give you some distance to think about the deeper context of a situation against the backdrop of your values and priorities. Controlling your ego will remind you that it’s not about winning the battle, but the war.
2. Consider all possibilities: Get a grounded perspective by considering every variable and factor in a situation. Don’t fall for what is most obvious because it’s all that grabs your attention. Dig deeper and consider all the possibilities and motivations of those involved. It helps to write them down and even create a mindmap to give you an overview of the whole scenario. Widen your perspective further by thinking of the potential consequences of strategies you’re considering, both the positive and the negative.
3. Avoid immediate gratification and focus on long-term goals: Short-term thinking is hard-wired into our systems. We are prone to indulge in the pleasures of the moment and respond to what is immediate. That’s why many people indulge in instant gratification and self-destructive behavior instead of making sacrifices and putting in the work that’s needed to manifest long-term wins. Avoid falling into this trap by having a clear sense of your long-term goals and let it guide your priorities and actions. Be in touch with your purpose and your “why” so that when temptation knocks on your door, you have the resolve to not give into it.
The great Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In taking a higher perspective, we’ll be able to see the journey far enough to know which direction to head in and the steps we need to take to get to the endpoint. Having an awareness of what could lie ahead of us, combined with unshakable faith in our hearts, means we can expect nothing short of a spectacular voyage toward our destiny.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: What is one area in your life that you need to view from a higher perspective? What is getting the way of you being able to do this?
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