August 29. “Much of what we see depends on what we’re looking for.” (Phil Calloway)
Everyone has their own, unique lens through which they see the events around them. It is true metaphorically, and literally, that people will see what they are predisposed to seeing. I have seen several documentaries over the years on how inherently unreliable eye witnesses can be to things like traffic accidents. Several people witnessing the same event will have very different reports because each sees things in their own way.
While this is true in a literal sense, it’s even more profoundly true as a metaphor. In life we all tend to see those things we seek. If I leave the house looking for happiness in the world, then I will see things that are smile-worthy. But, if I am in a foul mood, then every event will look to me like a sinister attempt on the part of those nearby. In both cases, my mood and outlook create a self-fulfilling prophecy about the day.
As I have been working my way down my journey to better health, I have been reading the stories of others on similar paths. Recently I saw a blog post about the impact that negative words can have on us. In the post the writer talks about how if we see ourselves as a fat person, we will remain a fat person. If we tell ourselves that our weight is due to genetics, then we will always struggle. But, if we break through that negative self-talk, we can reset our self-image, and find new success.
This same phenomenon extends to how we see those around us, perhaps no more dramatically than how we see our children. When I was working in the Church as a Religious Education teacher, I would occasionally have a student who was a handful, their behavior disrupted the class and I would have to have a discussion with them and their parent. At first I was astounded at how rabidly the parents would defend their child, ignoring behavior and attitude issues that were so obvious to me and others. But what I learned was that their lens for their child couldn’t let them see what I was seeing.
At work I have seen countless times that a person working on a problem will see only the problem, and miss obvious opportunities to get to a solution. We can become so invested in the forest, that the trees simply don’t exist. Sometimes it takes someone with very minimal knowledge of the situation to come in and have a look to help us see what can be done. This “fresh eyes” approach is why it is good to have people rotate in assignments every few years, keeping all perspectives fresh.
It is only when I take a step back and consciously work to see things as objectively as possible that I can break out of my predispositions. When I make the conscious effort to leave the house in an upbeat mood, I see the world as a happy place. When I choose to look at a situation with fierce honesty, leaving behind whatever prejudice I may have, I can more readily see the facts.
I have written often about the idea that to live the life I want to live, I must be intentional. I cannot just let life happen to me, I must consciously work to alter my thinking and actions to bring about the rality and successes I seek.
Today my reflection is on making sure that I am keeping my outlook fresh. It is a Friday, and a good time to take stock of some things at work and make sure that my assumptions and prejudices are not getting in the way of making good decisions on the projects and problems at hand.