“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” I found three attributions for this quote, Max Planck, Albert Einstein & Wayne Dyer, all impressive men. That being said, what does it mean to you?
As you look at the picture of the man looking out at the lake, what do see? Do you notice the trees that have fallen along the shore or the water that is near his feet? Did you think about the fact that he is wearing shorts and a jacket?
Everyone sees the world through the filters of past experience and future expectations. If you were treated poorly, or kindly, as a child, by a person of a particular gender, age, or race you may view all people that fit that description negatively or positively, depending on what occurred. You may not even know you have this bias. If you believe the “chips are stacked against you,” you may come up with reasons you can’t get ahead. When you see life this way, it becomes your reality. How many stories are there of people growing up in terrible circumstances and going on to accomplish amazing things? You can also form biases about a specific person or situation, and then your perception creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Here’s an example, one time when I was teaching a workshop on leadership I mentioned that people often act the way they believe we expect them to act. One of the gentlemen in the class, we’ll call him Keith, raised his hand and asked if he could share an example of this principle he had recently lived through. I, of course, said yes since I love real-world examples.
His statement went something like this, “I work for an electrical contractor that mostly works on large government buildings. One of our on-site superintendents in the low-voltage division, we’ll call him Ron, had a very weak personality and struggled to keep jobs on time and on budget. While I was his supervisor, he had been with the company much longer than me and the owner refused to let me fire him. Every time I went to the job site I would belittle Ron and tell him he couldn’t do the job, and he always proved me right. One day I was watching a show on television, I don’t remember which doctor it was, but he said if we see people a certain way, they live up to, we’re down to those standards.
It sounded hokey to me, but I thought what the heck, what do I have to lose? For the next several weeks, every time I visited the job site I complemented Ron. Sometimes it wasn’t easy, okay fine, it was downright difficult, but I found something to compliment him on and to let him know I had faith in him. Slowly but surely, I saw a change in the way he did his job and the way he carried himself. In the past, the job site was often disorganized and the team members were unsure of what they should be working on. Gradually he became more organized and more authoritative. His crew actually finished that job on time and on budget. The most interesting thing that happened was one of the guys on his team asked me what I had done to Ron. He expressed how nice it was to show up to the job site and have all the materials they needed, as well as a schedule of what was expected that day.”
Because Keith had always seen Ron is a loser and incapable of doing the job, Ron lived down to that standard. When Keith started seeing Ron differently and more importantly letting Ron know how he saw him, Ron began to change. The same is true in situations. If we assume a situation is going to go poorly we create the self-fulfilling prophecy and the situation turns out just as we expected. However, if we believe a situation will turn out well, we also create the self-fulfilling prophecy. Will this work 100% of the time? Absolutely not. But you give yourself, and others, a much better chance of success when you look at people or situations positively.
The picture that accompanies this blog is not a man looking out at a lake with his back against the tree. Turn your computer screen, or your head, sideways, whichever is easier, and look at the picture again.
(I see you looking rather silly at this moment.) 🙂 It’s actually a tree that has fallen and the man is laying on the tree looking up at the sky.
As the quote goes “When you change the way you look at things, the things that you look at change.” Whose life can you pour into by seeing them differently? What situation can you change by seeing it differently? I see you looking at things differently and creating the future you deserve.