When people say they just need to step away to get some perspective, what exactly do they mean?
When you are committed to something, when you are truly, deeply in it, it can be all consuming. You place expectations for it way above what it could ever achieve. The quest for perfection causes stress, mountains and mountains of stress. It stops being fun. This is when one is often told – whether it be an inner voice shouting loudly or an outside voice of reason – that they need to get some perspective.
Stepping away from a project could be as simple as reading a book, going for a walk or watching TV. Physically removing yourself from working on it allows your mind to start thinking creatively about another way to solve it. Instead of going with just the first answer that pops in your mind and getting frustrated when that doesn’t work, you allow ideas to marinate and develop, often leading to your most creative idea yet.
However, what if that project you need perspective on is your life? Not one piece, not one slice of your life – but your entire life. What if you need to completely shift your perspective, your focus, your goals in order to lead a more wholehearted life? How does one go about doing this?
You find a way to create the space.
A month before my 25th birthday I decided to do just that. In my journal entries from the time, I am using words like “disappear” and phrases like “taking a break,” to explain why I quit my job and bought a ticket to New Zealand. It was my own version of Wild, which I wrote about last year. Figuring out who you are is a wonderful adventure and we are in it for our entire lives. Removing every outside influence allowed me to truly embody my strengths and weaknesses without the validation from an outside source. Some of the things I came to realize were:
- I am a morning person. Yes, I can stay up late, but I have a strong preference to be up early. A productive morning sets me up for a great day.
- I love to connect with others. I love to give to others. I love to be of service.
- Leading a healthy life is important to me. Healthy defined as eating well, exercising regularly, and staying mentally open and calm.
These may not seem like “ah-ha” moments, but trust me, they were. They were aspects of myself that I had questioned and at times I had lost along the way. By removing all the distractions and outside opinions, I came to embody these characteristics in a way that I hadn’t before. They became sort of deal breakers – things I needed in my life to be at my best, my happiest, my most fulfilled.
While I would love to leave for an adventure to continue my self discovery, it isn’t as realistic as it was at 25. So what do I do, and what can you do to try to get some perspective?
- Get outside and go it alone. I generally do this by running, but you can walk, sit, run, sail, roller blade – you name it! The goal is to let your thoughts wander without any distractions and see what you can uncover.
- Read memoirs. Reading the stories of others gives perspective on your own life. Recently we’ve read the Elon Musk Biography and I just finished Drew Barrymore’s.
- Talk to others. Bounce some ideas you have off of someone you trust. Or, turn the tables and ask them how they are handling some specific challenge you aren’t sure how to move past. We all have a story to share.
- Get lost. Whether it is actually getting on a plane to somewhere new, or just taking a new way to work, changing your surroundings has the ability to open up your mind to new possibilities. And, not only can you get lost physically, you can get lost mentally, by doing something creative such as reading a book, listening to your favorite album, or drawing.
For me, stepping away to get some perspective has been how I’ve moved my life forward. It may take me a while to uncover the right direction, and that’s ok. After all, aren’t we all works in progress?