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Work Life Lead: Perspective

Grandfather Morrison -1916

Perspective is a point of view, a vantage point which helps us make sense of what is happening around us.

We gain perspective in two ways.

We do it by narrowing our field of view to focus on what we decide is ultimately important. We do this when we set goals and develop strategic plans. There is great value in focusing. It helps us to be productive and effective.

The other way we gain perspective is to broaden our awareness.

If narrowing our perspective is a left brain activity that creates order and focus, expanding our perspective is a right brain one that creatively seeks to make new connections with ideas and situations.

Narrowing our perspective is easy. Broadening it is hard. Narrowing is comfortable and secure (we think). Expanding it is scary and random.

We need both to succeed in life and work. We need to have goals and focus that lead us somewhere. We also need the capacity to expand our point of view so that we discover new ways and new opportunities.

Our goal should be finding a balance between the narrowing and expanding functions of perspective building.

If I’m only focusing on my goals too narrowly, then I can miss out on an opportunity that will help me meet them. If I’m not focused enough, I may spend too much time exploring new opportunities that really don’t lead anywhere.

If I’m only focusing on expanding my perspective, then I can get lost in a sea of information that has no life or work context.

Developing our perspective of what is happening is both a strategic endeavor and a tactical tool for managing our day-to-day lives and work.

A vision is the result of broadening our perspective on the goals we want to achieve. A vision is more like a video with action and sound, people moving about, doing things, achieving goals and celebrating success. In our vision, we should see the changes that come from our efforts.

If our vision is more like a snap shot, then it isn’t expansive enough. A purpose statement is more like that. It is a statement of mission and identity, not really of action and accomplishment like a vision is. It states who I am and what I do.  These conceptual tools help us to focus and guide us toward our goals.  They are the tools for disciplining our mind and our emotions to stay on track as we manage the challenges of our lives and work.

Perspective, as a tactical tool for managing our lives day-to-day, is the capacity for “situational awareness.”

Ever been involved in a circumstance that is unfolding at the office, and it is obvious that you are the only one that understands what is going on?  Or, the opposite, you walk into a discussion at home and you realize that you are clueless about the situation?

Our ability to function in social situations is dependent upon our having a broad enough perspective to understand the various influences taking place in the room. Our ability to be situationally aware is a direct result of expanding our perspective by listening and learning to what other people think, their perceptions and especially the values and experiences they bring to the conversation.

Expanding our perspective is a discovery process.

We must be open to learning. We must fight the tendency toward insecurity and defensiveness.  In venturing to learn about new ideas and approaches, we must humbly recognize that we don’t know everything we need to know, and that we don’t even know what we don’t know.  We ask questions, listen, read outside our of comfort zone in order to expand our perception of the world we live in.

When we find balance in perspective, we learn how focusing on expanding our perspective as a strategic goal allows us to become more complete and whole as people. When we focus too narrowly, we run the risk of become insular and intellectually arrogant and defensive. When our desire to expand our perspective lacks purpose, we can lose focus and end up bouncing from one new idea to the next looking for the Holy Grail of the one idea to make my life complete. The result is disappointment and a diminishment of our capacity for situational awareness.

Perspective provides us a way to understand the situations we are in and how we can make a difference.

When we are clear about our purpose, have a vision for where we want to go, we can afford to look broadly to people and ideas for their input. As a result, we can enter into any situation with the confidence that we can perform at our best, be influential contributors and find joy and satisfaction in our life and work.

About the author

Dr. Ed Brenegar I'm a leadership speaker, writer and consultant who is a mentor and catalyst for change. I assist leaders and their teams in the transitions required to succeed in today's complex organizational environment. I live in Western North Carolina. I'm involved the Boy Scouts, a charitable leadership training group called Lessons In Leadership, an ordained Presbyterian Church USA minister, and am the host of the Say Thanks Every Day social network.

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Posted in General Leadership, Leadership Q + A, Work Life Lead.

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