Perspective is a funny thing. It can sweep over you gradually, like the warmth of a crackling fire from across the room. Or it can feel like a swift kick in the mouth when you don’t see it coming. We’d like to think perspective comes with age, though I’m certain it wouldn’t take you long to find a few exceptions to that statement. Can it be taught or does it have to be experienced? Is it pretty much “one size fits all” when you get it, or does perspective dabble in as many sizes as a Starbucks latte can be ordered?
One of the most impactful things toward building perspective in my life – let’s change the term to match the story – or in broadening my worldview was traveling outside the United States. If you haven’t done this, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Why? Because it lets you see life outside the bubble! Our Western lifestyle, culture and “the way things are” don’t necessarily stack up the same way abroad. Depending on how your worldview has been constructed, it can be shattered by experiencing what life is like outside the prosperity we enjoy.
Traveling outside the U.S. changed my perspective on charitable giving. Sure, that amazing resort in the Mayan Riviera has every luxury known to man, but did you observe the poverty of the local people as you were escorted by SUV to your villa? The coral reefs off the coast of Belize are incredible, but were you paying attention to the shacks lining the dirt roads on your journey? Cities like Athens and Istanbul have so much history and significance in our world today, yet I witnessed children and refugees in extreme need. But what if I wasn’t paying attention at all?
You see, gaining perspective involves broadening your horizons and leaving the sandbox, but what good is that if your eyes and ears aren’t open? My lesson was in giving; what’s yours? Here’s some good news – you don’t have to update your passport to enhance your perspective. Look at the people you work with or who work for you, and put yourself in their shoes. It can even be a good business strategy; has your new corporate initiative passed the common sense test, i.e. how would you react if this happened to you? Would your customers feel the same way? Back in the day, UPS required their executive leadership to work shifts in the distribution centers and ride along on deliveries. Disney has a similar training element for their leadership teams, requiring them to work in the parks. Why? Because an informed and deepened perspective can inform better decision-making.
So open up, change your vantage point, look at something in a different light, shake up your worldview. The difference can be more than refreshing; it can be life changing.