“In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.”
― Bertrand Russell
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #61
How we view the world, our perception of the world we live in, has an immense influence on our attitude, our mood and ultimately the energy we put out into the world.
Think about how our eyes function for a moment. When the environment we are in is not full of enough light, our pupils dilate to bring in more light enabling us to see more clearly, and when we become overwhelmed with light, our pupils contract to protect themselves.
Believe it or not, the broader our perspective, which is defined as “A mental view, a cognitive orientation, a way of seeing a situation or a scene”, the more truth we bring into our lives, reduces our ignorance and enriches our lives overall. However, much like being overwhelmed with excess light, when we are exposed to a tremendous amount of new ideas that are foreign to us, it is natural to want to shun diving into the new ways of thinking because it is unknown. In such a moment, many people return to their comfort zone, their safe place and shut out the light, or in this case new ideas and perspectives.
However, there are many benefits to opening our eyes to varying perspectives which will then broaden our own perspective. While there is no guarantee it will change our minds, at the very least, it will keep us informed and aware, so we can better navigate and interact civilly and respectfully with others.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of having a broad perspective.
1.Strengthen business relations
If you are involved in business in any way, you already know what I’m about to share. In order to have a successful business, you need to know your customer, you need to know what they are looking for, why they are looking for it and how to best meet their needs. The only way to figure this out, is to step into their shoes, see life from their perspective, in their culture. If you can see the world through their eyes, even if you’ve never experienced their way of life first-hand, you will be far more successful bringing them the product or service they might seek on a regular basis which ultimately strengthens your business.
When we open our minds to new ways of thinking, whether by working with others who have different experiences or come from different cultures or backgrounds or by simply reading and gaining new knowledge that opens up a new world of ideas to us, the creativity is sparked and can ignite into some of the most unexpected innovations.
3. Increased understanding
One of the greatest gifts of travel is the broadening of our perspectives. Spending time in another culture, we discover that there are many alternate ways to live life well. When we recognize this life truth, we can begin to increase our understanding when it comes to why people choose the life paths they choose. Not everyone will choose a path that is similar to ours or believe that the best life is how we see it.
4. Increased tolerance
Continuing on from #3, when we come to understand how and why others live their lives, even if it is not the path we have chosen, our tolerance increases because we refrain from making ignorant assumptions that can be destructive. It is when we refrain from judging others’ decisions about how to live their lives and instead celebrate our differences that civility in society improves. There is no one way to live a fulfilling life, and such a realization can be quite liberating.
5. Obliterate stereotypes
When we base our understanding of cultures or ethnicities other than our own on what is portrayed on television or uttered by ignorant others in our lives, we establish in our mind stereotypes that can stand in the way of seeing the world as it actually exists. By definition, a stereotype is incorrect, oversimplified and fixed, and as we know, each of us as individuals is always evolving, growing and changing. Once we begin to introduce ourselves to new people and difference experiences and ways of living, we begin to see the error in hanging on to stereotypes.
6. Less violence
Hurt people hurt people is a common refrain, but if one of the person’s involved in a potential altercation is aware of this truth, what may have turned into a violent situation can actually be mitigated. The handful of times in my life when someone has been aggressive toward me with their words or deeds, I have come to realize after stepping away from the situation, that their anger had nothing to do with me. So by not engaging, I eliminated additional hurt and realized they need to choose to help themselves, but I couldn’t do that for them. The key though is each of us. If we broaden our perspective to see beyond ourselves, we can at the very least, prevent something negative from happening, and at the very best, provide comfort to someone most likely needs it more than they realize.
7. Strengthen relationships
Whether it is a disagreement with our partners, someone at work or a customer, the moment we put ourselves into their shoes and try to see the situation from their perspective, we give a successful interaction a chance. Some may describe this as kindness or thoughtfulness; however you define it is up to you, but when you refrain from entering into a potentially contentious situation with the objective to win and instead to understand and find a middle ground, that relationship will have the potential to improve and become stronger.
8. Become the best candidate to hire
Increasingly in our global economy, being aware of the many different cultures and ways of thinking in our world is an asset with employers. Not only is understanding different cultures imperative, but understanding the perspectives of different generations of people as well. After all, the youth have had many experiences more advanced generations have never had due to the access to technology, but the Gen Xers and Baby Boomers have many rich experiences that are of great value and must not be ignored. Keeping ourselves open to meeting new people and having conversations with others that are not the same age, can greatly increase our employability.
9. Become a better problem-solver
The more you know, the more you understand, the more tools you have in your toolbox to solve the myriad of life problems or conundrums that present themselves each and everyday. Simply because something doesn’t go as you had planned doesn’t mean there isn’t another path toward your desired goal. Creative thinking and a broad perspective of how things can work and varied life experiences can ensure that no problem goes unsolved.
10. Eliminate Unnecessary Stress
A few years ago I heard someone say, “Ignorance really is bliss”, and at the time I looked at them quizzically because while yes, not knowing may allow us to go through life without a worry, eventually we will get smacked with the truth, and often it is something we could have prevented if we would have been informed. No, I don’t want to know the day I will die, so in that case, yes, ignorance is bliss, but for example, being prepared should an earthquake hit (because as seismologists have been reminding us recently, it’s not a matter of “if” in western Oregon, but “when”) is the best approach. We may become a bit stressed knowing we don’t have control over when it will happen, we can ease this angst by being properly prepared. In this case, perspective comes by way of gathering as much knowledge about the situation or circumstances that we are living within.
As you can see, there are many benefits to choosing to broaden our perspective. The opportunities to do so will never cease as the world will forever be changing. Therefore, as long as you remain curious, you will always be growing, and thus, your perspective will always be stretching itself. It truly is a gift you give yourself.
Similar to Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave“, when we choose to step out of the cave and into the sunlight, initially, all of the direct light will be daunting and we may instinctively want to go back in where it is safe. However, we do ourselves no favors by hiding away from the truth the world has to offer. We must seek the sun, knowledge and a broader education of the world and all the people that live in it. And when we do, we not only improve the quality of our own lives, but the world’s as well.
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