What do you see when you look at this picture? Take a moment to examine it because there may be more there than what you initially see.
Beauty or the Beast?
Some see the side profile of a beautiful young lady’s face; just catching her petite nose and eye lashes as she looks away. I can follow that profile down to the bottom of her chin and then jaw line to see the choker she’s wearing around her neck. Can you also find the old woman; eyes looking down, almost covered by her thick black hair. Do you see the shape of her nose just above her black fur collar and her mouth and long chin protruding through the middle of that collar?
Is this a picture of a “beauty” or a “beast?” The answer is, “Yes.” What you see is determined by where you place your focus. Both women are there. Interestingly, you can’t see them both at the same time.
If you’re looking at one and you want to see the other, you simply change your focus. You can go back and forth between the two but you can’t see them both at the same time.
The truth: What you choose to focus on will determine what you see.
The lesson: In every situation we face, there will always be multiple perspectives/truths. We have the ability to choose what we focus on, and what we focus on determines exactly what we see.
Some might refer to this life skill as being a “glass half full” person. I just know that if you look, really look, that there is a positive reality (not positive thinking for the sake of thinking positive and ignoring reality) in every situation we face in life. And that this perspective can bring hope, joy, peace, fulfillment verses other perspectives that drag you down and rob you of life’s best.
Dealing with Life’s Difficult Situations
It’s not the facts of our lives but the stories we tell ourselves about those facts that determines for us our emotional states, and thereby the quality of our life.
We generally judge how we are doing by how we are feeling. Life is good when we are happy, fulfilled, or feeling grateful; it’s not so good when we are sad, unfulfilled, or angry. How do we deal with the tough moments in life? It all starts with our perspective.
Let me use an example that we at Feldman Daxon Partners deal with almost every day: someone losing their job. Take a moment and answer this question for me: how does that person feel?
You would say angry, I’m sure, if the person thought the decision was unjust; or scared, if they were living paycheque to paycheque and thought they might lose their house. How much better are they emotionally when they leave their job thinking that they were treated fairly and with respect? Or leave thinking that they are marketable and good at what they do so finding another job (maybe even a better job) should reasonably be in the cards?
Now I’m not suggesting we ignore reality. What I’m saying is that we get to choose the reality on which we wish to focus. Yes, the person lost their job, money will be tight, and there’s uncertainty about the future. Equally true could be remembering the good severance package that will provide financial support for a number of months, the career transition support that will help find a next job more quickly than when unsupported, or that the last job wasn’t a great fit and this provides a great opportunity to find something better.
Oh and by the way, how you feel determines behavior and performance. Who does better in an interview – the person who’s angry or the person feeling positive about themselves and what they have to offer a potential employer?
Given any situation, here is a simple process I try to follow:
- Question: How am I feeling and what thoughts are behind those emotions.
- Examination: Are those thoughts true and are there other perspectives (healthier perspectives) that I’m missing.
- Decision: Make a decision as to the perspective that you wish to take, acknowledging the emotional impact that choice with bring.
- Action: Find ways to reinforce the thinking you wish to embrace.
David Tollefson is an Executive Coach and Vice President with Feldman Daxon Partners.
- On October 24, 2017