I heard somebody make the observation that our vision should be perfect in the year 2020. As a Psychologist in my 18th year of practice I am wildly aware of just how important the way we choose to see things can affect our daily lives.
How we look at our lives matters. Not just in the glass half-full, glass half-empty sort of way. Everything we interact with in our daily lives, our partner, our work, being in traffic, our finances, being single, thoughts of the future, regrets of the past, etc. includes an assumption. And the assumption we make about those items greatly affects the way we experience them.
I’ve always said that if we want to create lasting change through therapy we cannot simply focus on changing our thoughts or behaviors because that does not create change that lasts. If we want to create lasting change we must focus on our perceptions. When we change our perceptions of our daily interactions we create lasting change. Our thoughts and behaviors naturally fall into place.
Let me give you a few examples of how changing the way we see things will create the lasting changes we are looking for.
When couples come into therapy they are almost always battling each other over something. That’s problematic because a couple, by the very nature of being a couple, are in it together. The truth is, they will succeed or fail together. There is simply no way for a couple to advance through battle because if one partner finally wins, that means the other partner has lost. Taking into account the idea the couple is in it together, then if one partner loses the couple, naturally, loses. Battling each other over issues is not a sustainable way to create a vibrant, healthy relationship.
It’s a common mistake to make in couples counseling to jump right in and focus on the issue or the way the partners are communicating. This will often be a futile effort if helping the partners see themselves as a team is not first accomplished. In order for a couple to become more effective they must first realize they are a team. A two-person team. They are in it together. It is literally the two of them against the world and they must see it that way. Having that perception of being a team is the only way for a couple to grow together and learn to work through their differences.
Here are some tips that can help change your perception of your partner:
- Focus on the fact that your partner is your teammate in life. This will help you maintain respect for them during difficult conversations because you know if they fail, the team fails, if they get hurt, the team is hurt. You want to succeed and move forward, and the only way you will do that is as a team.
- Try seeing your partner as though you are meeting them for the first time. This will help you see them for who they are as a person instead of as a symbol of all you have come to assume about them. With your assumptions out of the way you will be prepared to be open to working with them instead of being prepared to work against them.
- See your partner as though they have something to offer you. You picked your partner for a reason and part of that reason is that you saw some value they would have in your life. Over time that value can get lost. We’ve all heard the phrase: familiarity breeds contempt. If you see them for what they have to offer you will be more open to their thoughts and ideas and less likely to want to keep trying to convince them that you are right. You will find the best ideas come about when both partners give input.
Looking into our future can often cause us angst. I have found that when people are struggling with making decisions about their future it is often because they feel trapped. Feeling trapped is a challenging dilemma. Part of feeling trapped is the belief there is no way out. Options seem so limited. We honestly wonder if there is anything we can possibly do.
What I have found regarding making important life decisions is that there are two areas where we can focus our attention. We can look at the constraints or we can look at the opportunities.
Whenever we feel trapped we are more than likely overly-focused on the constraints. When we are looking at the constraints all we see is why it will never work, or why we can’t do the things we wish we could do. We end up spinning around in a negative view of how things won’t work.
What is interesting is that if we shift our focus from the constraints to the opportunities everything changes. We begin to feel hopeful. We start to see possibilities we hadn’t been seeing. We come up with new ideas. The reason for this is simple: Every time we turn our focus to opportunities, the constraints we have been so aware of change.
Here are some tips that can help you begin to see a brighter future:
- Think outside of the box. Brainstorm. Grab a piece of paper and jot down everything you can think of, no matter how “out there” it seems to be. Chances are, by focusing on the constraints, you have been missing the work-arounds.
- Don’t judge yourself. If you judge yourself when trying to figure something out you are likely giving in to ideas you internalized a long time ago. While these ideas might have always seemed like the only way there was for you to be, they are not. Go easy on yourself. Be kind to yourself as you explore ideas for the future.
- Question everything. If you have self-deprecating ideas like “I couldn’t possibly do that” or “That wouldn’t work for me” or “That’s not how I am” ask yourself “Why?” Always. Every time. One of the most powerful ways for us to change our perspective is, honestly, to question all of our seemingly automatic assumptions.
If you want to enjoy life more and experience more satisfaction in daily living, change the way you see the world around you. All of it. See the world around you as though you haven’t seen it before. Even — no, especially — the little things. Notice how much you enjoy a nice piece of toast or a comfortable chair. We’ve all been told to take time to smell the roses and that is actually very good advice.
Value your life and value the lives of other. See people as though they all matter. Because they do. Instead of enduring the day to day, go about each day as though you have something to offer. There is a way you can help make the world a better place. Seeing life as though it matters and valuing the world around you will make that happen.
Here are some tips to help you see the brighter sides of the world around you:
- Appreciate things. Be thankful for what you have. Your coffee maker, your car, your furniture, your job. Sure, you might desire a better one of each of these, and that’s completely valid, but hating on them will not get you there. Being thankful, on the other hand, for all that you have, will help prepare you for the better things you have coming.
- Respect all people. Everyone matters. You don’t need to agree with them or even like them but by the very fact that they are a living human being, treat them as though they matter. This change in perspective will go a long way in helping you navigate work, crowds, driving in traffic, etc. because none of us really knows what is going on inside of those around us.
- View your smile as a valuable gift. This might seem stupidly simple but it is a powerful truth. When we see others as though they have value we are more likely to smile at them. And every time we do that we are spreading joy. We are making the world a little bit better place. Spreading joy is a simple way to feel more hopeful about life and about the world around you.
These have been a few simple ideas about how the way we look at things can change our experiences in life. I want to encourage you to try them. If you would like to make these sort of changes but are unsure how to do it on your own, try therapy. You can contact me and I will help you through it. But it doesn’t have to be me. There are many great therapists in the Grand Rapids area who can help. If you are reading this somewhere other than Grand Rapids, I have no doubt there are therapists in your area that can help you change the way you are looking at things. Give it a shot. If 2020 is indeed a year for perfect vision, why then should we not improve the way we are looking at things so we can have a more satisfying existence?