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Optimism, Perspective and African Shoes

Perspective is a funny thing. It really defines our view of life and the events that happen every day.

You will perhaps have heard this very old story illustrating the difference between positive thinking and negative thinking:

Many years ago two salesmen were sent by a British shoe manufacturer to Africa to investigate and report back on market potential. The first salesman reported back, “There is no potential here – nobody wears shoes.” The second salesman reported back, “There is massive potential here – nobody wears shoes.

In any situation we are presented with the opportunity to view it however we want to. The way we view it depends largely on our perspective. For example, when the Miami Heat won the NBA Championship last season, it was joyous news for those living in Miami. But for me it was horrible news because I personally dislike the Heat. The only thing worse is when the Lakers win. The Heat winning the championship isn’t good news or bad news. It is just news. I choose to label it as bad news.

And so it is with any situation in our life. When an event happens, we can choose to make it good news, bad news, or otherwise. What we choose will determine how we live. Have you ever known someone who chose to be negative about everything that happened? If it started raining money they would complain about the size of the bills. That’s their choice, and they don;t tend to be very fun to hang out with.

Conversely, have you ever known someone who never seemed to have a bad day? Their car breaks down in the middle of the summer and they tell you how lucky they are that they have two feet to walk to a gas station. It is a choice to see life that way. These people tend to be rewarded in their choice with more friends, deeper relationships, less stress, lower blood pressure, and a healthier life.

I am reminded of a short poem I once heard: “Two men looked out from prison bars, one saw mud the other saw stars.” In any situation we choose whether to look up or to look down.

Perspective is a funny thing. It condenses all of our life’s experiences into a bundle and projects them onto everything around us. We see the world through a personal filter that we have developed over time. My perspective is different than yours. And both of ours is vastly different than that of a native boy from the Sudan. The trick is to step away from our filter from time to time to view the world as others might see it. By doing so we will gain empathy, understanding, and acceptance of the actions of those around us.

Action Tips:

1. Try looking at a disagreement from the other person’s point of view to see if there is some merit to their opinion.

2. When something trivial happens to ruin your day, step back and look at how that event will affect your entire life. (Usually it won’t and it will start to look a little silly.)

3. When your spouse makes a meal you don’t love, remember what your mom said, “There are starving kids in Africa who would be excited to eat this.” She’s right. An overcooked steak may ruin your night but it would make somebody else’s day.

Go out and add some success to your day!

Kris

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