The word of the day is Perspective.
Back in September, I went to Nashville. That resulted in 20 Things I Learned from my Recent Trip to Nashville . One thing I left off that list and that I’ve been relearning of late is perspective.
I have known people who live in Midtown Memphis who will not go to events or offices in downtown Memphis (a distance of a few miles) because it is “too far.” Back when I worked in an office downtown, one of my co-workers gave me a ride to our home in southeast Memphis and he always referred to our neighborhood as “East Jesus” from then on because he thought “Jesus! That’s a long way to East Memphis!” It was less than 20 miles each direction. Personally, I have been reluctant to shop in the area around Wolfchase Mall, the largest enclosed mall in the metro area, because it is “all the way on the other side of town.” I used to offer various services in Jackson, TN, which is about 90 miles from our home, but stopped because it was “too far away.”
None of those compare to a drive to Nashville which is a minimum of 3 hours and, with pit stops, more likely to be 4 hours each direction. After making the trip to and from Nashville twice in one month, my perspective on what is “too far” has shifted. This is one reason that so many people have recommended traveling outside the USA — it changes your perspective on the world when you have actually been there and seen it with your own eyes. Just going to the city that houses the State Capitol when you normally lives hours away from it can be an eye-opening event. I will never forget my trip to Washington, DC, for political reasons back in 1980, nor my solo trips to Weakley County, TN, and Clay County, AR, for genealogical research, as they connected those places to me much more viscerally than just reading about them ever did.
Perspective helps us to see the scale and scope of a matter. If you have to walk or ride the bus or beg a ride from a friend, the other side of town or midtown to downtown may be a long distance. If you have your own car, travel from one part of the state to another becomes not as big of a deal and can certainly help you see that your home town is not as big as you think while you are just living your day-by-day life.
In the same way, perspective can help us tell the difference between decisions that are merely hard or difficult and those that are life-or-death choices.
It’s easy to get caught up in making daily choices between competing priorities, but compare that to those having to decide whether to stop fighting against a debilitating illness or to decide when to let the medical facility pull the plug on a terminally-ill relative. It can be difficult to juggle running a small business, studying to expand into new lines of service, having a family life, and keeping up with all the errands and chores — but that pales beside being stuck in a nursing home and needing help to use a bedpan or to stand up. Perspective lets us know when our concerns are just not that big of a deal compared to those that other people we care about are having to handle.
We never really know all the consequences of any of our choices, but a reasonable person will stop and consider what they are likely to be before making any important decisions. Perspective can help you figure out whether a decision is important and how important it may be, as well as some of the costs involved with making it. For instance, if you take a job and stop looking for work, maybe you will miss a better job that could have been offered to you, but dwelling on that possibility will not make you happy.
Many people let the possibilities that might arise stop them from making decisions because it is hard to choose between the bird in the hand (that is not quite right) and the one in the bush (that may never emerge for you to snatch it). Perspective could help you see when you are letting the opportunity cost of making a choice hold you back until circumstances make it for you.
Go ahead and make the hard or difficult choices based on your best understanding of what is in front of you, not what might be still emerging down the road.
Now, for life-or-death choices, for the radical career changes or the moving-across-the-country changes or the adopting a child choices, think long and hard, get expert and trusted-friends advice, and weigh the pros and cons. Let your imagination go to work and picture how your life would be with the consequences of this choice both ways. See this as a life-changing moment and envision how your life will look 5, 10, 15 years down the road if you go this way or that. That is a proper use of perspective — to see things as they are AND how they are likely to be.
This post was prompted by Publish in 10 Minutes Per Day.