By Gail Barker, B.A., C.P.C.C.
My introduction to the power of perspective happened about 18 years ago. I was just embarking on my journey to become a certified life coach. As we discussed ways to support clients when they’re feeling stuck, the topic of perspective came up.
Up until that point, I understood in theory that people held different perspectives and that one’s personal perspectives provided unique vantage points on common areas of focus. In other words, two people could be looking at the exact same thing — image, landscape, person, object, whatever — from different vantage points (literally and metaphorically) and see very different things. What I learned is that when I’m feeling stuck, I can willingly and consciously SHIFT my perspective, thereby availing myself of so much possibility.
Now, it’s one thing to learn about perspectives and the power they hold. And it’s a powerful thing to be able to support others in shifting their perspective in pursuit of fulfillment. It’s a whole other ball game to experience the liberation yourself — to notice that you are stuck in a perspective, recognize how that perspective is holding you back, and deliberately choose another way to approach a scenario.
Fast forward to 2013. I had been coaching for well over a decade and established a successful practice. I had started working with more leaders and knew that my coaching focus was shifting. And, in an unexpected twist, I was feeling desperately called to write. A voice inside was adamant that it was time to share my message in the form of a book. The challenge was that any time I took to write was time away from coaching, training, and facilitating — and as a self-employed professional, time away from my core work was a time when I wasn’t earning income.
So I was caught in a quandary. I needed to work, and I needed to write. One generated income while denying me the opportunity to honor a new calling; the other fed my creativity but cost my security. How exactly was I to make this work? The dilemma had me spinning my wheels, and then I wasn’t being productive in either realm. My writing wasn’t really happening, and I wasn’t working optimally.
In the back of my mind, I knew what I needed to do: I needed to find additional employment. I needed a source of income that would allow me to write without feeling guilty about taking time away from my coaching. I needed a side-hustle, as it were. But my perspective was that finding additional employment was a way of selling out. Finding additional employment was simply another way of denying myself the opportunity to earn income from my coaching. That perspective kept me stuck for a LONG time — and my entire life constricted as a result.
Then, I talked with a friend — someone I trusted, who understood my concern but didn’t judge me for it; someone who was able to gently invite me to find another way to look at the situation at hand. And my new perspective, the perspective that allowed me to move forward, was that having another source of income wasn’t a cop-out, but rather an opportunity. Finding the right fit for an additional income source would not only expand my income flow, but it could also provide me an outlet for untapped skills. It could introduce me to new people, which would take me out of isolation (an occupational hazard of working solo). The right additional source of income could actually enhance my coaching practice, rather than diminish it.
With the power of this new perspective buoying me up, I quickly found a position at our local library. Very part-time, but it didn’t need to be more. It allowed me to be surrounded by books — a major source of inspiration for my writing. I was regularly interacting with new people in a non-coaching capacity, building relationships in a way that wasn’t possible from my home office. The irony of the whole thing was that when I was able to take my focus off of HOW to write without sacrificing my coaching practice, both areas of concern expanded. I was doing MORE formal coaching, not less. I was writing, without concern. Essentially, by allowing myself to see things differently, to find the opportunity within my challenge, my entire circumstance became “unstuck.” I was now enjoying the flow.
So, what did I learn from my own personal experience of finding a new point of view?
- Shifting your perspective requires you to be courageous. This is not a moment to play small. You have to face your reality head-on, be really clear about what you’re wanting, admit the cost of what’s happening in your current space, and look and see what you may not want to see.
- A perspective shift is as good as a vacation, in terms of energizing your life. By definition, a new perspective infuses your life with a fresh approach. And a fresh approach is exciting.
- Sometimes, finding a new perspective is easiest when you enlist the support of an ally. The folks in your life who want you to succeed, but aren’t attached to how that looks, are a gift when it comes to seeing what you can’t yet see.
Having said all of this, let me share a few tips for HOW to shift perspective:
- When you’re feeling stuck in any way, MOVE your body.
Getting up and physically moving is often enough to remove writer’s block, get ideas flowing, or find the energy that is otherwise lacking. When I’m working away in my lovely office (and it is a lovely office, by design) it can be easy to develop a set of metaphorical blinders. By swiveling my chair, or turning my head (or lifting my head when I’m buried in a book!), or standing up, energy shifts, and stagnation dissipates.
- Sometimes, the opposite it true; experiencing a perspective shift is only possible if you STOP moving.
In the hustle and bustle of this day and age, it can sometimes feel as though the world around you is spinning, and getting your bearings is elusive at best, impossible at worst. In those moments, stand still and let things around you settle down. As they do, you’ll gain clarity on what is happening, what’s needed, and how to move forward. The perspective found in stillness can be a powerful one. Perspective shifting requires you to be open and willing to entertain something different from what you know and are comfortable with.
- Consider the perspective of others.
Don’t do this from a space of judgment or envy, but rather from a space of curiosity. What other approaches might exist that you simply haven’t considered? Once you’ve entertained a few possibilities, pick one and apply this new perspective to your circumstance.
Bottom line: every one of us gets stuck from time to time. The place of “stuck-ness” can feel overwhelming, constricting, limiting, and denies you the opportunity to live with enthusiasm. When you’re stuck, finding a new perspective on whatever challenge you’re facing is often the best way to turn things around. When you find a new perspective, you find new possibilities.
Gail Barker is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach. She specializes in supporting leaders to lead powerfully and meaningfully. Here company, Stellar Coaching & Consulting was established in 2003, and through that platform, she has supported hundreds of leaders in elevating their leadership game. A few of the additional hats she wears professionally are author, speaker, and radio show host. Personally, she is deeply committed to her family, loves to read, and finds deep restoration when walking along the beach (even in the winter).
Social Media identities: