“We must look at the lens through we see the world, as well as the world we see, and understand that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world.”― Stephen R. Covey
The lenses through which we look
Two people go through the same experience, they wreck their car into a ditch. One person is angry at their stupidity and afraid of how much a new car is going to cost. The other person is grateful that nobody got hurt and sees this as an opportunity to buy the new car they’ve been wanting anyway.
What’s the difference? The objective reality for both is the same (wrecked car in a ditch), and yet they react totally differently. How do you think these two people’s lives, in general, might be different?
The most simple answer is that these two people view life through different lenses. Those lenses change all of the assumptions, reactions, emotions that each person has to the happenings of life.
Good lenses vs. bad lenses
It’s easy to put judgments on other people’s outlooks. That second person is naive, doesn’t understand the gravity of the situation, should be more upset. That first person is too serious, is a stress case, should chill out. The truth though, is that there are no good or bad lenses through which to see the world. There are causes and effects. Person one is going to have a very different rest of their day than person two because of how they choose to see this crash. If the desired outcome is to make sure that nothing like this could ever happen again, person one is probably going to come up with far better strategies, whereas person two might just brush it off and say it was chance. If the desired outcome is to show up to the presentation tomorrow and not be bogged down by all the hassle of the crash then person two is probably going to be the most successful of the two.
Where do these lenses come from?
So where do these darn lenses come from anyway? For the most part, they come from the past. They come from the way that our parents raised us. They come from challenging situations that we successfully navigated at some point ‘back then’. They come from that one college teacher who totally spoke your language and you resonated with how they saw the world, so you started to take on their lenses. Sometimes they come from the traumatic events that happened to us.
The most important thing to remember is that for almost all of us, the lenses through which we look at life are not intentionally created by us to help us reach our goals. And so we end up looking at life in ways that might not serve us in creating the life we truly want to live.
When it’s time to change out your glasses
The good news is that you CAN intentionally shift the way you look at the world. If you feel stuck, if you feel like the world is out to get you, if you feel like there is no way that you could feel happy or successful – these are great opportunities to see if another lens might get you the outcomes you are looking for.
When you look at your goals for your life, does it seem like the world simply isn’t going to allow you to reach them? If so, it is probably time for a change of glasses.
It’s like going inside without taking off your sunglasses – everything is harder to see when we use the wrong glasses.
How do we change the way we look at the world?
Great – so you recognize that now is a good time to change your view of the world (or yourself), how do you do it? First of all – this is a great time to hire a coach and bring in an accountabilibuddy. Having help as you step through this will make it happen far faster and make it last longer.
Next – is to recognize that the way you view the world isn’t set in stone. You have the ability to change and control how you see the world. This might be really difficult for some people to own. Think of it like this – another traumatic event might happen in your life that would shift your lens (I hope not, but for the sake of argument let’s say that it could happen). If you were to find out that you had six months to live that would certainly change the way you look at the world! So your viewpoint isn’t static and permanent. Once we accept this, it’s often a little easier to accept that we can intentionally change our viewpoint ourselves, without a traumatic event causing the shift.
Next, it’s about finding the frames that are most likely to get you to the outcomes you desire most. This can be as simple as looking at a goal you have (“to be more social” for example) and identifying the lens that you currently view that goal through (“but everybody is a self-righteous A-hold”) and then identify a lens that would work better for you (“people are adaptable and are inherently trying to make their world as good as possible”).
Other ways to find different lenses
- Put yourself in somebody else’s shoes. How do they see the world?
- Think about who you want to be in the future. How does that person see the world that allowed them to be successful?
- Ask your accountabilibuddy how they view the world with regard to a goal like yours.
- Read a book by somebody who has done something like what you want to do. Look for their outlooks.
Lastly – It’s all about practice and forgiveness. Practice looking through that new lens in your life. The more you practice, the easier it will get and the more authentic it will feel. Forgive yourself when you find that you’ve fallen back into the old pattern – this is a process that might not happen overnight for you, and that’s okay. Take the time you need to get the change you want.
Look at your life. Where are you wearing the glasses that don’t serve the life you want to be living?