Years ago I came up with a mantra I attempt to live by: Think positive thoughts. Speak positive words. Create a positive world.
In other words, look on the bright side. It’s all about perspective. Easier said than done. Believe me.
My mantra is just three simple sentences, but they're not always simple to implement. Sometimes in life, the simple becomes the most complex. It’s hardly ever easy.
I’ve been contemplating perspective lately and the fact that even if you have multiple kids growing up in the exact same household they will come away with totally different ideas and takes on their experiences.
Take sports. I have three sons who’ve played their fair share of sports. Their insights were all unique.
One son took a factual approach to his own play-by-play commentary. He would tell us about when he scored — or didn’t. He remembered specific plays. The game was a game and when it was over it was over.
A second son always saw the best in his athletic performance. He remembered his best plays. When the coach looked at him and smiled it was a sign of approval for a good effort. After the final buzzer, the games lived on in his mind – with his performance getting better with every recollection.
A third child played well during the game. We know because we were there. We told him so. We reminded him of some of his stellar moments. He didn’t respond with more than a couple words, or more likely a slight nod. Ten minutes into the ride home he often began lamenting about his shortcomings. He didn’t score enough points. He should have been faster. Everyone on the team played better than he did. And so on.
The interesting part about this, from my perspective, is the lamenting child was probably the best athlete out of the three, yet he saw himself as less-than.
We are born with the tendency to see the world through our own unique eyes. But our perspective is also shaped by our current position in life.
Take this simple example: A 4-year-old spills a glass of milk at the breakfast table and thinks, “Oh no, am I going to be in trouble?”
Mom thinks, “Another mess to clean up.”
Dad thinks, “That was the last glass of milk. We’ll need to get more.”
Big brother thinks, “I’m glad it wasn’t me.”
Baby thinks, “Let me down from this highchair. I want to play in the white water.”
When Mom mentions the incident on the phone to Grandma, Grandma thinks, “I wish I saw my grandbabies more often.”
Cat thinks, “Oh good, I love lapping up spilled milk. I can perhaps help you with clean up.”
Dog thinks, “I don’t think I spilled the milk. I didn’t mean to. If I did, I’m sorry.”
Seven different beings, seven different perspectives on the exact same scenario.
No situation is the same for any two people (or pets). It’s all about our own unique perspective. And it’s hard to escape from our own perspective. It’s as much a part of us as our fingerprints or eye color or personality. Sometimes more so.
My example involved a spilt glass of milk — an ordinary, daily occurrence in some households. Imagine how perspective can skew real life issues: relationships, friendships, love and loss. Often during these occasions perspective is magnified — at a time (quite honestly) when we’d benefit from viewing the world through lenses other than our own.
So the next time someone spills milk on your kitchen table, remember it’s all about perspective. And no one in the room (even a crowded one) sees things exactly the same. Your thoughts and words determine your reality, and no one else’s, but they can provide a positive or negative impact depending on how you react, what you say and the perspective you choose.
Simple concept. Big outcomes. Think. Speak. Create.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.