I’m sure you’ve looked at an optical illusion where there were two images and you only saw one. No matter how much you squinted or moved your head, you still didn’t see the second image. You may have even asked for help. Finally, you saw the image you didn’t see the first time. For example, look at this image to the right.
Do you see someone looking straight at you or do you see a profile of someone? Both are possible.
Another example is the spinning ballerina illusion below.
What direction is the dancer spinning? If you said clockwise, you are correct. If you said counterclockwise, you are also correct. “The ambiguity of direction of motion due to lack of visual references for depth is shown in the spinning dancer illusion. The dancer appears to be rotating clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on spontaneous activity in the brain where perception is subjective.”
In the same way that it is possible to look at an optical illusion and see it differently than the person sitting next to you, it is also possible to experience a situation differently than someone else. For example, a plane could be delayed due to the weather. One person may be grateful that the airline is taking necessary precautions to ensure safety while another person may be annoyed that the plane isn’t on time. If you like dogs and you go to someone’s house who has a dog, you might experience joy. Someone who is afraid of dogs could visit the house and rather than feeling joy, feels fear or anxiety. Both people are experiencing the same event, however, the way they are seeing the event differs.
In the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey says the way we see the world is our paradigm or, “the way we ‘see’ the world–not in terms of our visual sense of sight, but in terms of perceiving, understanding, and interpreting” (p. 23). Changing the way we see requires a paradigm shift. Covey writes about one he had on a subway.
I remember a mini-paradigm shift I experienced one Sunday morning on a subway in New York. People were sitting quietly – some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene.
Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.
The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing.
It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt like was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”
The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”
Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, and because I saw things differently, I thought differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the man’s pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. “Your wife just died? Oh I’m so sorry! Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?” Everything changed in an instant. (p. 30-31)
Put simply, in the words of Barry Neil Kaufman, “The way we choose to see the world creates the world we see.” I wonder, what in your life are you seeing from a singular paradigm that you could look at differently and how that change in perspective could impact your world?
P.P.S. Please remember to...
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