Have you ever seen an illusion before and noticed something a bit off about it, and when you changed your perspective you saw something different (like in the picture above A & B are actually the same color: see checker shadow illusion). We are talking about illusions in this example, but perspective can be applied to how you view the world as well.
When someone asks for perspective, or they say they have lost perspective, what do they mean? In this context, it could mean one of four things:
- Proportion The Big Picture. Seeing the real importance and true interrelationship of things.
- Objectivity Rational Thinking. Detaching emotionally to see things as they really are.
- Viewpoint Comprehensive Thinking. Looking at the situation from a variety of different angles.
- Clarity Reality. Confidence that you have explored the situation amply and understand it.
Perspective is a crucial component of personal growth. There are many ways you can use questions to reframe one’s internal dialogue to change perspective. Changing perspective can help someone who is otherwise stuck move to the next level. Perspective can be used to better understand relationships, better understand goals and/or better understand life in general.
There are several ways to think about perspective; below are some questions to ask to regain perspective (or shift it). (You can find more questions like these in the book Coaching Questions: A Coach’s Guide to Powerful Asking Skills.)
The Perspective of Balance
- “What’s going on in other areas of your life (outside of your primary goal) that is putting pressure on you or making it more difficult for you to reach your goal?”
The Perspective of Time
- “What will this decision look like in a decade? What will seem most crucial then?”
The Perspective of Passion/Purpose
- “Let’s say this situation is designed to prepare you for your true purpose. How might that change your perspective?”
The Perspective of Others
- “How is your current situation affecting your friends, family, and others around you? What do they think?”
The Perspective of Freedom
- “Assume that you have the power to change your current situation, that you can take action and make a difference. What would you do if you saw yourself in control instead of being controlled?”
The Perspective of Motives
- “What is motivating you to go in this direction?”
- “How are you really making this choice?”
The Perspective of Confidence
- “Which alternative provides a healthy amount of challenge and will allow you to use your full capabilities?”
The Perspective of Clarity
After you have moved through all these other questions, consider these final two questions, to make sure sufficient perspective has been obtained:
- “What would it look like to know the answer to this question? How might that knowing come about?”
- “Can you live with the outcome?”
It is not easy for someone to leave their own viewpoint and take on another. Creating a scenario or vision of what things look like from another point of view can help. For instance, create a future perspective by outlining what a victory would look like. If you sketch out some initial details, often it becomes easier to create a mental picture of the future and gain a new perspective.
Understanding personality types is another useful perspective tool. If you are a coach, help your clients identify their own personality type and traits, then encourage them to look at a particular situation from the perspective of some other type of personality. This concept can be challenging for some, but those good at creative thinking and/or role playing can learn to “to step outside themselves,” which can foster new viewpoints and new insights on a given situation.