The question is not what you look at, but what you see.
- Henry David Thoreau
In the 2010 New York Times bestseller “Unbroken,” the story of Louis Zamperini’s life unfolds. A World War II and prisoner of war survivor, Louie endures horrific and almost unbelievable experiences. Yet he goes on to survive, flourish, embrace Christianity, and find the ability to actively seek out and forgive his former captors. He is still alive today at the age of 96.
Along those lines, a fascinating movement is under way in the U.S. Army. For years, much time, attention, and money has been given to the cause of diagnosing and treating post-traumatic stress disorder in returning veterans. But in recent years, the military has also begun to promote the concept of resilience and post-traumatic growth.
The idea grew out of researchers’ observations that despite harrowing circumstances, significant numbers of trauma survivors, such as Zamperini, are able to thrive. One study in 1980 on airmen captured during the Vietnam War found that 61 % of them felt they had grown positively through that experience – for example, they enjoyed their lives and appreciated other people more. Many described a deepening of their spiritual lives. A follow up study 25 years later found that the soldiers convictions remained unchanged!
What’s the takeaway for the rest of us?
Not all of us will face the drastic, dramatic circumstances experienced by those in combat. But the lesson here is that the perspective with which we approach our obstacles and difficulties – whether at work, at home, or in-between – can have a profound impact on the outcome.
Often, we’re not fully aware of what our perspectives actually are. Like fish in the sea, we may come to believe that swimming is the only way to move forward. However, taking the time to step back and try on a new perspective can do wonders for the way in which we engage our lives and engage the world.
This week, let’s look at eight questions you can use to reframe your focus and remodel your perspective.
1. Is your current challenge a problem, or an opportunity for something unexpected?
2. How can the difficulty you face make you stronger?
3. Could the benefit in the end outweigh the current struggle?
4. Does the relationship outweigh the accomplishment?
5. Is this a temporary situation, or does an eternal perspective make a difference?
6. Should you measure only concrete results, or is there something intangible gained through your efforts?
7. Do you want to “just get through,” or can you find the benefits in the steps you’ve already taken?
8. Does the situation remind you of what you don’t know, or what you have the opportunity to learn?
This week’s food for thought: We often find what we are on the look-out for. In challenging situations at work and at home, we can use the principal of perspective to become more effective. And we may even begin enjoy and embrace some of those very challenges.
This week’s action steps: Take a few minutes to consider a recent obstacle or challenge. Use the list of questions above and write down (yes, write) three ways you can positively reframe the situation. You may find that, like Louis Zamperini, having the right perspective can transform the journey you take to get to your destination.
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image credit: freedigitalphotos.net/scottchan