Have you ever tried to look at something, anything, from a different angle? Maybe on someone’s face, you focus on their eyes instead of their mouth? Or you try to focus on certain aspects of a project instead of what you have been looking at? This shifting of attention can provide a completely different view of the world and things going on around you. One of the most helpful ways you can shift your perspective is to approach the world and the people in it with a more compassionate attitude.
You are rushing into work, you are late for a key meeting, tired and just want to get there as fast as possible. You are perfectly on time when you find out the train is going to be late because the driver hasn’t arrived yet. What do you feel? What are some of the thoughts that are going through your mind?
Probably various frustrating ones I would imagine, I know that is what has gone through my head in the past. Also, there may be a few insulting ones aimed at the driver, the train company or anyone involved in the whole process. Even that guy sat next to you who is slurping his coffee. Slurp, slurp! Argh!
I know I would have so many unhelpful thoughts that would only serve in creating more frustration and anger. This would effect my mood and more than likely my performance in the meeting I was already going to be late for. These thoughts are not harming anyone but myself.
Now think about it this way…
Let’s add a little more information, to help alter the perspective. It turns out the driver is late because he has had almost no sleep because he has been awake all night caring for his ill mother. Tending to her needs, making her comfortable and just making sure she isn’t alone. How does this information change your mindset? What feelings are you experiencing now?
I know I would certainly feel a little more patient and understanding as to why the train is late. I don’t think those feelings of frustration and anger would be as strong within me. I would be in a better place for my meeting. I have a different perspective; a more helpful outlook.
What is different about these two situations?
The outcome of the two situations is different. One is an unhelpful outcome for you in terms of your mood and thereby the preparation for your meeting. The other is a more helpful mood or attitude that you can take into your day.
What is the trigger that changed it?
It was by learning more about the importance of the situation the driver was in, you were able to approach the circumstances with compassion. This gave you a perspective of understanding and relating to that person which allowed you to be more patient with them.
Can you cultivate compassion even when it may not be warranted?
In this story, there is an obvious situation in which it is difficult for you to feel anything but compassion. However, if it is that compassionate approach that has allowed you to cultivate a more helpful mood for yourself can you use this to help you every day, even if there is no story to help you understand better? Can you use compassion to help yourself?
There may be a way you can use this to help you generate more helpful moods for yourself. When someone does something that you feel is affecting your mood, take a breath and think a little deeper. Consider what is the motivation for that person doing what they are doing? Look at it from an optimistic point of view. Imagine they are not out to get you or just “so goddamn selfish”. Think through their life, what do you know about it? What sort of issues or problems may be going through their mind at that moment? What is it like to think like them?
Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes can open up you to a new way of thinking. A new way of appreciating why they do what they do. A compassion which will open you up to patience and forgiveness, which ultimately will give you a better handle on your moods. This will allow you to cultivate a more consistent a helpful outlook for you throughout your life. Compassion is also often ignored within working environments even though it can help contribute to your success.
This way of looking at the world will open up your ability to empathise with others. It has been shown that this ability to think in some else’s shoes can increase your emotional resilience. This means that when something does go wrong you can stay as your best self. You will not be reduced to a simmering angry mess that cannot control their mood or stop themselves from letting negative thoughts relentlessly fester in your own mind.