“The tiniest change in perspective can transform a life.”Oprah Winfrey
When Brother David invites us to Look — after stopping for presence and before going toward possibility — he is directing us to seek the opportunity for enjoyment that awakens our grateful hearts. We are invited to look for the surprises that would bring us delight. We are to notice the things we take for granted, now seen with freshly appreciative eyes. The beauty we missed while sleepwalking through the day. The opportunity to be grateful that is knocking just beyond our ability to hear it in the tumult that surrounds us.
In many moments, simply looking for beauty, surprise, and opportunity can be enough to deliver enjoyment — and with it a grateful outlook. You can direct your attention or ask yourself a question, and something you can feel grateful for will appear in your field of vision or awareness. These are times in your life to be cherished — the times when it is relatively easy to be grateful.
One of the many gifts of perspective is that we can significantly change what we see by changing how we see.
But there are many times in life when simply directing our gaze or attention is not enough to readily deliver gratitude. What is before us might not immediately speak to beauty, surprise, or opportunity — so we need to be able to see what is before us differently. One of the many gifts of perspective is that we can significantly change what we see by changing how we see. After a power outage, we shift from begrudging the clunky old lamp to celebrating the gift of its light. When we are truly hungry, we see the feast hiding in our vegetable drawer rather than just old produce. A loved one makes it home through a bad storm, and the morning’s disagreement melts away. Perspective helps us add context and consideration, allowing us to see what’s in front of us in a new way because it allows us to see with a wiser and more grateful heart.
You acquire perspective through experience and intention. It arises from what you choose to focus on, how you choose to see it, and the interior place from which you do the looking. We have influence over all of these. We can gain perspective by either moving closer or putting distance between ourselves and what we observe. It can allow us to be fully present to an experience and simultaneously be its witness. Perspective can let us put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, a future moment in time, or the vantage point of a bird’s eye view.
Our work is to continually reset the aperture on our lens, inviting the focus and frame of reference that best allow gratefulness to surface and serve us.
There are encounters that broaden our perspective and those that constrict it, attitudes that open up greater awareness and those that batten down our hatches, questions we ask ourselves that expand our consideration and those that limit it. Certain people and settings open us to perspective; others shut us down. The good news is that perspective enhancement is a practice that can be learned. Our work is to continually reset the aperture on our lens, inviting the focus and frame of reference that best allow gratefulness to surface and serve us.
We have all gained or lost perspective in the blink of an eye. We both consciously and unconsciously need to seek and re-seek it, sometimes hundreds of times a day. With grateful living, we can redirect our attention with prompts, short practices, questions, and reminders. We do not have to physically go somewhere for perspective (although travel is an exceptionally effective and enjoyable way to come by it). We can use memory or imagination to access other ways of seeing a situation. We can purposefully shift our thinking in ways that enhance our understanding of life.
Perspective helps us to remember that beauty and heartache coexist, as do grief and gratitude, joy and sadness.
Perspective is simply another way of experiencing the truth of what is. It is not an “attitude adjustment,” because what we are experiencing isn’t wrong. Instead, we gently layer on awareness, redirecting our attention to concurrent truths. Perspective helps us to remember that beauty and heartache coexist, as do grief and gratitude, joy and sadness. The dividends of perspective are reaped long term, arriving when our gratefulness accounts are near empty. Insight and wisdom come unexpectedly, but we need to sow their seeds all the time. We honor the longing to feel more grateful by honoring the wisdom of what is true. Learning to cultivate a more grateful perspective can make all the difference in how we experience most anything, and most everything.
Questions for Reflection
What activities or reminders help expand your perspective when it feels small, or help you find perspective when it feels lost?
When your perspective feels enhanced, how do you experience your life and act differently?
Excerpted from Wake Up Grateful: The Transformative Practice of Taking Nothing for Granted by Kristi Nelson (Storey Publishing, November 2020)