Change Your Perspective, Change Your Life





We've all heard of the title "Change your (insert word here), change your life".  These titles are all based upon one idea: you can change your life by changing one thing about your life.  This could be handwriting, your brain, your attitude, or even something as complex as your story (meaning the story you live by, the one you are always telling everyone about).

Mine is a bit simpler than your changing your entire story.  It's the idea that if you change your perspective on people, you can change your life by being more positive.  And everyone can do with a little more positivity in their lives, am I right?  I know I can.

This exercise is based upon two things: a worksheet I found in the "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff Workbook" and the ideas behind Don Miguel Ruiz's book "The Voice of Knowledge".  I combined the two to make a more effective exercise (as the original worksheet's instructions were actually pretty lame--sorry, but it's true, and I believe I narrowed down the list in a more constructive way).

Ruiz's book taught me to look at other humans as actual people than to see them as extensions of myself.  Rather than ask "Why are you being mean to me?"  I find myself asking "I wonder what inside of you is hurting to make you act this way?"  Not always, mind you, as I am pretty human myself and I mess up more than I would like.  But, I will say that when I do remember to ask this question, I respond with more empathy and kindness than I would otherwise.

When my son was going to grade K, there was this woman who was in charge of the outside.  I mean, just ONE woman...she was in charge of the buses, the crosswalks, the kids, the parents...everyone.  And every single day I'd go get my son from school, she'd yell at me.  "Don't cross the street there!"  "Don't park there!"  "Don't do this, don't do that!"  One day, I made a mistake and accidnetally turned down the bus lane, and she ran up behind me and blocked me in on purpose to teach me a lesson, so I had to sit there and wait over 30 minutes for all the buses to leave.  I almost got out of my car and punched her square in the face.  I was seething with anger.

So the next day, I walked from my car to go get my son and she came after me, yet again.  But I stopped before she got to me and really looked at her.  She was alone.  Nobody was out there helping her.  She had to deal with idiot parents (like myself) who never listened and annoying kids who never listened...and why would I expect her to be any different than what she was?  I saw the lines around her eyes, the sadness in her eyes, the frustration written all over her face, and all my anger for her just melted away.  So I looked down, stepped into the actual crosswalk, slapped a genuine smile on my face and apologized. 

"I am so sorry you have to always yell at me.  I need to listen better.  And I want to say thank you for all the hard work you do, when I can clearly see you are out here every single day alone.  It has to be really, really hard.   I want to thank you for that."

Her face softened and her shoulders dropped.  "Wow, thank you so much.  Nobody ever has said to me all the years I've been working here." 

"Well, you deserve more recognition for what you do.  You keep our kids safe, and you keep the parents in line to set good examples for these kids.  You have a very important job and you do it well."

She smiled.  The first smile I'd seen all year on that poor woman's face.  "Thank you."  And then she walked off to do her job. 

When you forgive someone because you not only see your own part in the issue at hand, but you see them as human being with hurt and pain and love?  That will literally rock your world to its core.

So, that's why I put this simple worksheet together.  By identifying what others can teach us with how they treat us, we can see them not as people who treat us "good" or "bad", but as people who's experiences not only shape who they are but also how they treat us.  And we can see what their treatment of us can teach us about ourselves.

One of the people on the worksheet is your mother.  When you answer, think about what she's taught you, not only with her support of you (if she's supported you), but also what she's teaching you with her negative behavior (if she's negative).  My mother is abusive.  So I have to think what she's put on this earth to teach me (we're pretending everyone is put here to teach us something) with her abusive behavior.  Because even mean people shape our lives, not just the supportive ones.

Down the worksheet here and print it out and have a go at it.  After you're done, come back and share the most surprising thing you learned (and I will do the same!).



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