Perspective: 3 Ways to Challenge Yourself and Your Views
Author: Leader in Me
October 16, 2018
Perspective is a hard thing to shift when we fall into a routine. My all-time favorite quote from Dr. Stephen Covey, found in The Leader in Me, expresses my message today about perspective:
“When literally hundreds of students arrive in unison each morning like a giant wave, or when they depart en masse at the end of the day like the tide going out, it must be difficult for educators to always keep in mind that ultimately, in the final analysis, every child is a one – a unique spirit with gifts. And lest anyone forget, every teacher and administrator is also ultimately a one, having their peculiar package of experiences and their own one-of-a-kind package of talents. What greater contribution can an individual teacher make than to enable an individual child to successfully lead his or her own life and to maturely respond to life’s challenges?”
What Stephen is asking us to do, is to “see” the truth about each other – to change our perspective. He’s asking us to fight against the relentless cultural and environmental challenge that beats against us “like the pounding surf,” as he would say, of seeing students and colleagues as “tides,” and “waves” and collectives; as groups, as grade levels, as class periods, ages, demographics and on and on. Rather, he’s asking us to take the more difficult path of seeing from another individual’s perspective. This way of seeing can actually change our way of being. In fact, it truly is the only thing that can change our way of being. Seeing others as they are, transforms us.
“When understanding arises, compassion is born,” said teacher, author, and peace activist Thick Nhat Hanh. A great example of this is from a story I heard from a friend and fellow teacher. A second-grade student in Camas, Washington recently expressed to him, while substitute teaching in the boy’s class that day, who’d only been in the class a few hours, “You are the best substitute I’ve ever had. Wait – no – you are the best teacher I’ve ever had at this school.”
How did he do it? How did this substitute teacher, in two hours, make such an impact on a student? I know my substitute friend would agree with Stephen Covey. He would agree that the secret is to see each person as the tremendous individual, with unlimited potential that they truly are. Students and others can feel when you are seeing them this way. There is no faking it. They respond to your way of being with them, to your way of seeing them.
An amazing principal and colleague in Yakima, Washington said something to me as profound as anything I’d heard on the subject: “How do you teach a child to read? You make friends with that child.”
So, how do we change our perspective? How can we view situations and problem through another’s eyes? Here are three ways.
3 Ways to Challenge Your Perspective
Everyone is fighting their own battles, learn what they are.
Every student or fellow teacher, as I heard another say, “has a story that would make you cry.” See that story of suffering, of sadness, of struggle. Work to find their perspective. Maybe it starts by asking them a question. And then maybe another. And then another.
Encourage their Tenacity.
Their story could be one of grit, fight, persistence, resolve, and self-defense. They are battling, and you see that in them. Once you do, they are seeing you. Not only will your perspective change, but their perspective of you will change as well.
Find their story of Solicitude.
Yes, a fancy word for kindness, care, and concern. Our colleagues and students care about something. They often are serving and loving and giving in ways that they would never share casually. Pets, ladybugs, knitted sweaters – whatever melts their heart, learn that what and why behind it.
Nobel Prize winner Dag Hammarskjold, a Swedish diplomat, economist, and author said, “It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses.” Your efforts, energy, and perspective are for the one. The one by one. One at a time. One fist bump, handshake, and “How are you today?” at a time. An undivided perspective. They will know then that to you they are not waves, or tides, or numbers or grades, but a unique and valued individual. They will know that you really see their story, that you really care. And they’ll be right. You REALLY do! Because you’ve really changed. You see them differently. Truthfully— seeing really is being.