Recently, I read about how a pair of Mahatma Gandhi’s glasses were sold at auction for $340,000. While I don’t have an opinion as to whether or not that’s the correct price for his actual glasses, I wondered what the value of his perspective would be.
Before I go any further, some background on Gandhi. He was born October 2nd, 1869 and died January 30th, 1948 at the age of 78. He was an Indian lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist, and political ethicist who employed non-violent resistance to lead the successful campaign of Indian independence from British rule and inspired movements for civil rights all over the world.
Gandhi is unquestionably one of the most significant humans ever.
Would Gandhi’s perspective benefit us today? Clearly, the answer is yes, and a valuable reminder is to revisit our perspectives.
How you look at something makes all the difference. Your perspective is how you see the world. Fewer things are more important than that, and I’m interested in helping you explore yours.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Seeing situations and experiences differently
- Practicing empathy
- Interrogating reality
- Choosing wisely
Let’s get started.
Seeiong situations and experiences differently
Buddha was a prince. He spent the first 29 years of his life living with immense privilege, knowing no hardship. In fact, his father, the king, sheltered him from all the ills of the world, including sickness, old age and death.
It was not until he began to explore the world beyond the palace walls that he saw the realities of life. His view of the world completely changed by simply walking beyond his current experiences, and he went on to change the world.
You and I look a lot different from outer space than we look in our bathroom mirrors.
That person on the internet you think is a total moron might look a lot more reasonable across the table at a coffee shop.
Each of these perspectives are real, but they vary widely from one another. One is not necessarily better than the other, they’re different. When we recognize how our view of a situation or place can change with distance, we can shift our thinking about it.
Before you judge someone else, walk a mile in their shoes; wisdom we’re all familiar with.
We can learn from anyone, they don’t need to be the likes of Gandhi and Buddha.
All of our lived experiences are true and real, but they aren’t necessarily representative of the rest of the world or humanity. When we read the news, watch TV, or go on the internet, it’s easy to walk away thinking we’re living through one of the worst and most difficult times ever. But that’s not true.
By most every objective measure, today is the best time ever to be a human on planet Earth.
And, the worst thing to ever happen to you is the worst thing that’s ever happened to you. Your toothache can mean more to you than a famine that kills thousands of people on the other side of the world.
For me, the last five years have given me a handful of wonderful and horrible experiences. My wife and I welcomed two children to the world, and I lost my brother to cancer.
Falling in love, falling out of love, starting a business, and dealing with illness are all teachers if we allow them to be.
Reading timeless and wonderful books can also help our perspective. Read the Gulag Archipelago, Man’s’ Search for Meaning, To Kill a Mockingbird, and the Bible, to name a few.
Take your personal experiences into account, the experiences of others, and accurate data. Doing so can help give you a positive and healthy perspective.
The last thing I want to do is lie to myself. I try to look at myself as objectively as I can, both good and bad. More often than not, I’m a lot harder on myself than I should be.
Being able to look at yourself in the mirror, and to take inventory of your life, is a key to a healthy perspective. What do you need to cut out of your life? What do you need to add or accentuate?
It’s also critical to compare yourself against yesterday’s version of you, and no one else. We must all run our own races, and as Teddy Roosevelt accurately stated, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
It’s way too easy to look at others and think, “That person sure has their act together.” But we have no idea what’s really going on. That person may very well have everything together. On the other hand, they could be a complete trainwreck.
Focus on you. Once you’re successfully running your race, then work to help those closest to you. Never before.
Which is better?
- Hatred and anger, or love and caring?
- The innocence and optimism of a child, or the corruption and cynicism of a career politician?
- The work ethic and attitude of an entrepreneur, or the work ethic and attitude of the grandchild of a billionaire?
We all have choices to make. Our perspective, the lens through which we see the world, is one of those choices.
I choose to have an open mind and an open heart.
I choose to look at setbacks as opportunities.
I choose to fight for my potential, not my limitations.
I choose to look at everyday as a new day, not the same as yesterday.
I choose hard work over sloth.
I choose personal responsibility over victimhood.
I choose success over mediocrity.
I choose unity over division.
I choose expression over censorship.
What about you?
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